Can you see the hidden Dalmatian in this image? He's there, I promise. Challenge yourself before you continue to read, because I will tell you. Need a hint?
His head is directly in the center of the picture, you can see his ear, followed by his body to the right. Once you've found it - you will always see it. Your brain cannot unlearn what it has already seen. It makes a lasting impression on how you now perceive the picture.
So what does this say about our perceptions of other experiences in the world? For one, this clearly means that initially, our eyes have the ability to see things without our brain having the ability to perceive what the image is telling us (especially if what is encountered is unfamiliar) - and once we are able to make a perception, it is difficult for our brain to unlearn this new found impression. Are things always what they seem, or can we repurpose what was once perceived as a jumbled mess, into useful information once we understand it?
As a psychology major, sensation and perception were my two favorite subjects of study. They were my main focus once I really delved into my program (as well as conditioning and learning). All topics that have become ever more relevant as I explore the field of advertising and human relations. Perception is the key. You've heard the saying 'you never get a second chance at a first impression', but what influences that first "impression"? What is the impression based upon? Well, it's primarily based on how we have perceived a situation; how the interaction has impressed itself upon our brain through our eyes, ears, nose, skin, and mouth I suppose... (might as well include all senses here). Or can it be something else entirely? Would you be willing to admit that preconceived notions have an overwhelming effect on how we perceive our world around us, enabling or disabling our impressions of what we experience? Deep, isn't it...?
So, what does this mean for our industry? Well, it means everything. The way people perceive certain interactions affects the consumer, the client, the agency, the vendors... and the list goes on! If you see a billboard, and the image does not immediately appeal to you, do you even bother reading what it has to say? Sure you saw the sign, but did it make its impression? A bad one maybe... but that's it. What about those hilarious commercials we see on TV, the ones you can't, for the life of you, remember what they were advertising... All your brain received from that visual stimulation was "funny". Lest we forget to mention the most important of all... human interaction. Email is taking over, and have you noticed how the written word can seem so much more biting than the spoken word... Why is that?
You can't control how things are going to be perceived, that's the brain's job. But, you do have the ability to control your responses, decide the relevance of your perception, the context and respond accordingly... And, when working in this industry, the goal is to please the client and catch the consumer, it's best to understand that you have perceptual influence, and knowing how to influence perception is the key determining factor in the road to success.