Five Features of Reality
“Forms of life resemble what I call, ‘realities’. Forms of life are always form of life forming. Realities are always realities becoming” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of Reality, 65). What is Reality? Is reality what everyone believes in or does everyone have his or her own reality? Can your reality change what you believe in? Is reality a belief, or is it what you believe in your reality? Can your reality be right or wrong?
Reality is an actual situation or event where life cannot be real with an individual and society put together. Reality is not necessarily the same for everyone. Each person may have a different reality based on society, personal experiences, as well as facts. Every individual experiences the Five Features of Reality, which include reflexive, coherence, interactional activity, fragility, and permeability. Reflexive can be defined as believing in something so strongly, to the extent that if someone were to say something different, it would not influence ones decision. The person continues to believe in what they always had in the past. But in the coherence reality, human interaction might change ones belief and they begin to believe something upon what they interact with. Fragility is even more evident in every day life, where the rules are not implicit. Permeable feature is another way of demonstrating how vulnerable ones reality really is.
Have you ever believed in something so strongly that when someone would say something different, it would not influence your decision? If so, you may have experienced the first feature of reality, Reflexivity, in which one has an incorrigible proposition. Reflexivity is a relation that exists between entity and itself. For example, if one believes that ghosts exist, one’s everyday life and actions are based on the fact that ghosts do actually exist. By believing this idea, one can increase or limit their perception of reality. One of the aspects of Reflexivity can be explained as follows: “An incorrigible proposition is one which you would never admit to be false whatever happens…the truth of an incorrigible proposition…is compatible with any and every conceivable state of affairs” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of Reality, 52).
The next aspect of Reflexivity is secondary elaborations of belief. A person’s Secondary elaborations of beliefs are excuses or reasons why an individual’s incorrigible proposition is correct. For example, suppose an individual leaves their car keys on the kitchen counter, but when they return, they find that the keys are no longer there. Their incorrigible proposition is that another person may have taken or misplaced the keys. Their secondary belief may be an excuse on their behalf of why the keys are no longer there. For instance, they may have dropped the keys. Every individual encounters similar events and therefore assumes the features of incorrigible propositions and secondary beliefs. Mehan and Wood can see another example of Reflexivity in “Five Features of Reality”. A scientist performs an experiment where a specific amount of chloroform would be given to a butterfly. It is identified that “chloroform of a certain volume and mix is capable of killing butterflies” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of
Reality, p.52). One night when performing the experiment, the butterfly didn’t asphyxiate. The scientist was surprised because his incorrigible belief was that the
amount of chloroform given to the butterfly would cause death was proven wrong. “Instead of rejecting chemistry, they can explain the poison’s failure by such things as ‘faulty manufacturing, mislabeling, sabotage, or practical joke” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of Reality, p.53). In summary, the scientist had a secondary elaboration of belief to furthermore make his incorrigible belief to be truth.
Coherence is the second feature of reality. It is a reality based on one’s beliefs. “Coherence can be found upon analysis. The coherence located in a reality is found there by ethnomethodologist’s interaction work. The coherence feature, like all other features of realities, operates as an incorrigible proposition, reflexivity sustained” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of Reality, 57). Coherence is also an organized group of knowledge. In an individual, “normality (and presumably abnormality) is distinct enough that is can be recognized wherever it occurs, for it is carried within the person” (D.L. Rosenhan, On Being Sane in Insane Places, p.112). As explained in “ Social Construction of Unreality”, “Mary’s family would establish a definition of the immediate situation and use it as a frame of reference for interpreting and describing any and all of Mary’s subsequent behavior” (Pollner & McDonald-Wikler, 124). At a later point, Mary was diagnosed as being retarded; at this point the family’s incorrigible proposition has not changed. Therefore one’s belief builds one’s reality. Sometimes because of human interaction one might change their belief and may begin to judge something according to whom they interact with. “The interaction feature indicates a reality and its signs are
mutually determinative, alone neither expresses sense intertwining through the course of indexical interaction they form a life” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of Reality, 60).
This reality has been produced through interaction, which is also a feature of reality. For instance, in Mary’s situation, her parent’s believed that she was a very intelligent girl
who just wanted to embarrass the family in public. “Family member stated that Mary was a verbal and intelligent child who malingered and refused to speak in public in order to embarrass the family” (McDonald-Wikler, The Social Construction of Unreality, p. 122). Due to the interaction between her mother and father, they both believed that she was not retarded. However, when the family spent time with her doctors and saw that she was incapable of doing all the things they thought she could do, the doctors influenced their reality.
Fragility is the fourth feature of reality. “This fragility feature is even more evident in everyday life, where the rules are not implicit. People interact without listing the rules of conduct” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of Reality, 61). This feature shows how fragile one’s reality can be. The three things that prove a reality is unstable are: 1) ceaseless reflexive 2) a body of knowledge 3) and interaction. During a class session, Dr. Anderson demonstrated an example in which she used the game tic-tac-toe. When playing this game, the rules were implicit. If one did not abide by these rules, then it would not be called a game of tic-tac-toe, rather a game where one makes the rules as they go along. “A usually unnoticed feature of the game is a ‘rule’ prohibiting erasing an opponent’s mark. When this unspoken ‘rule’ is broken, it makes its first public appearance. If we were aware of the fragility of our realities, they would seem real” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of Reality, 61).
The last characteristic of Reality is one that is also prominent in everyday life amongst individuals. Permeability is when there is nowhere to escape from your reality, no time to escape, and there is no one to provide evidence for you to hide from it. The Permeable
Feature is basically showing another way of how vulnerable one’s perception of reality can be. “If your reality didn’t exist, you would start adapting to the reality you
live in. In other words, wherever you are or whatever you’re doing – you will start doing the same thing as the people around you” (Mehan & Wood, Five Features of Reality, 63). For example, when surrounded by peers who are experimenting with drugs, a young person may be provoked to do the same.
Anyone can change their reality, as is demonstrated by the Five Features of Reality. Each belief regarding one’s reality may be strong and therefore may be hard to change. There can’t be a right or wrong reality in one’s life. Each person’s reality makes sense for the atmosphere, experiences, beliefs, and valid evidence that is present in their life. Through the Five Features of Reality, individuals have concluded answers that provide a better understanding of reality. Although the Five Features are very accurate, what some believe in and others don’t, I’d have to say I believe the Five Features. My belief has now become my reality. Although my reality can be fragile, it can also be changed since it was formed through other human interaction, as the Permeability Feature is displayed. To conclude this essay, I leave you with a quote from Barry Alfonso….
“BR: In every sense we create our own reality, and this goes much further than most people aware of or are willing to admit. The reason most people can’t see this is because everyone is creating their own reality, but 99.9% of them are creating the same one-using
the same basic materials, including the same beliefs and the same values, the same EVERYTHING. And together it all appears to be one “reality” (Barry Alfonso, 6).”