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Common Sense: Shadings influence our life perceptions

January 21, 2013

By Brent Davis, editor of The Saline Courier

I was watching a television show one evening and the topic was our perceptions of reality. The program was filled with scientists and researches stating that the very images flashing before our eyes is not an accurate depiction of the world in front of us.
To prove their point, a group of test subjects was gathered and asked to determine which square on a screen was lighter than the other or if the two squares were actually the same shade of gray.
From where I sat, this seemed to be an easy task to determine. "The top box is darker." I said to the unsuspecting participants. Obviously they needed my assistance.
With a degree of confidence, one of the subjects blurted out my instruction to the scientist. My accomplice was asked to approach the squares and remove a small circle of material from the lower box and place it upon the upper box.
As the circle of color gradually lifted from the lower to the upper and somewhere in the process it became the same color as the box the consensus of contestants agreed was much darker.
Stunned, I yelled at the screen, "Put it back where you found it!" Amazingly, my doppelgänger moved the dot back to its origin. Miraculously, the dot changed back to the lighter color.
Still not believing what I had just seen, I listened as the scientist explained that our brain uses prior experiences we have had as a mechanism to assume different attributes of sight. Box boxes had been artistically drawn with appropriate shading to give depth to the picture. It was the very shading added that trick my brain into assuming the upper box was darker in color when, in fact, they were exactly the same.
So, let's take this concept a step farther. Do we shade our thoughts and opinions? The short answer is "Yes." We all draw from our previous experiences to form pre-conceived notions about the world around us.
Predjudiice is a perfect example. As children, our shadings of the world are determined by our environment and the influences placed upon us within it. Our primary sources of shadings are our parents and family. We repeat what we learn.
As we celebrate the life and contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should all take an introspective examination of our own shadings and how we have passed them along to others. Have we been good stewards of our responsibility to others?
Perhaps if we do, we can live up to the words of Dr. King when he said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

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