In her essay “Seeing”, Annie Dillard focuses on showing how different people have different perceptions. Dillard gives multiple examples to support her main idea, which is that preconceived and inherited notions influence our perceptions. Dillard discusses the different ways of seeing, how people with different backgrounds have different experiences with seeing, and many more. While Dillard’s idea about perceptions is definitely relevant and accurate, but are certainly not complete as there are multiple things that influence our perceptions.
In her essay “Seeing”, Annie Dillard provides multiple examples to support her idea about perceptions. One example that Dillard uses compares two ways of seeing. The first type of seeing in the comparison is referred to as “a matter of verbalization” (Dillard 33).
The second type of seeing described in the comparison, Dillard says, “involves letting go” (33). Although how things are seen is influenced by multiple things, it certainly is influenced by background and experiences throughout life. In her essay, Dillard also provides and explains the experiences that blind people had after seeing for the first time. One patient, after seeing shadows for the first time and learning that they show that an object is not flat said, “Well that’s how things do look. Everything looks flat with dark patches.” (Dillard 29). This patient had a different perception of things because she had not experienced things in the same way, for example, someone who had been seeing their whole life might have. When these two situations are compared, it is clear that the two groups have drastically contrasting perceptions. In Dillard’s essay, an example of this is given when she talks about how after first receiving sight, people were almost in awe of colors and were very impressed by them, but the huge size of the world was oppressing and overwhelming for them (Dillard 29-30). People who have always seen don’t typically experience these feelings in this way. How people have spent their lives and what they assume about unknowns largely influences their perceptions.
There are multiple areas in our lives that can influence our perceptions. The first one is cultural influences. Two examples of culture influences are beliefs and our language and communication culture (Beebe 73-74). Beliefs, which are our ideas about each person as an individual and the world, influence our perceptions immensely (Beebe 73). For example, in one culture it might be completely acceptable to tip at a restaurant, but in another culture it is seen as rude. How the world and others are viewed will almost completely decide how things are perceived by each individual. These perspectives are shaped by many things. Language is verbal and nonverbal communication, also influences perceptions (Beebe 74). How understanding of verbal and nonverbal cues are learned, which is guided by culture, will shape how the world is understood by each individual. These understandings have effect perceptions of the world and human interactions.
The second influence to perceptions is referred to as our standpoint. A German philosopher came up with a theory called the standpoint theory. The standpoint theory suggests that everyone perceives the world differently because everyone views the world from a different place. Our views on single situations or people can change depending on what it is, but it is possible to have one general outlook on things. An instance where this is seen is that if it is evident that a person is being dishonest, that person is less likely to be trusted in future interactions. For example, if a person has a positive view on something, they tend to see everything about it positively, and vice versa (Beebe 72-73). So, if someone has a positive outlook and attitude for life, they will probably see most things in life in a much more positive way and also perceive things in a more positive way. Everyone views the world from a different place and this alone has an impact on our perceptions.
The final influence to perceptions that is going to be discussed in this essay relates to assumptions. Assumptions influence our perceptions because when assumptions are made, it is often the case that there is not enough information for the assumptions to be accurate. Dillard gives an example that relates to this in her essay when she says, “ see what expect” (Dillard 20). When an assumption is formed about a person or situation, then things that agree with that assumption is what is looked for, so that is what will be perceived. This may create inaccurate impressions. Another problem with making assumptions is that it is assumed that there is consistency to others’ behavior and often the focus on negative things about others. When it is assumed that there is consistency to others’ behavior, it is assumed that after seeing them act one way once or twice, they will always act like that. (Beebe 77). These examples relate to another idea that Dillard talks about in her essay. Dillard says, “Peeping through my keyhole I see within the range of only about thirty percent of light that comes from the sun…” (21). This agrees with an idea that people tend to ignore information when making perceptions and only looking at a small portion of the big picture and make perceptions based off of that. An example that relates to all of these would be if someone expects a person to be rude, then whenever those two people interact, rude behavior will be all that is looked for and all that is given any thought. People often form perceptions off of assumptions and small pieces of the big picture which oftentimes makes those perceptions that a person might have inaccurate.
Annie Dillard writes about the idea that our perceptions are influenced by our preconceived and inherited notions in her essay “Seeing”. There are many different things that influence our perceptions and how they are made. Some of these things cause inaccurate perceptions and assumptions to be formed. Everyone has a different view and perceives situations differently because everyone views the world from a different place. While Dillard’s idea about how our perceptions are influence by preconceived and inherited notions certainly is accurate, it is not complete as it is not the only influence to our perceptions.