We View the World Psychologically, Not Geometrically

How our mind distorts our vision

Dr. Louise Rix
The Mental Game
4 min readOct 20, 2023

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The Chair (1985) — Photographs by David Hockney

In our day-to-day life, we often navigate the world assuming that what we perceive through our senses is an accurate representation of reality. That, like a camera, our senses simply capture an exact picture of the external world. We assume we perceive the world as it is and that others do the same.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” — Albert Einstein

However, the truth is far more complex and astounding. The world is not simply an objective reality to be analysed and understood, but a subjective experience that is continuously being shaped by our psychology. The picture we see is formed and coloured by our mental state and our past experiences. This has been depicted in research as well as in art.

David Hockney’s ‘The Chair’

Renowned artist David Hockney’s piece, “The Chair,” is a profound exploration of the subjective nature of our perceptions. The work shows a chair depicted from multiple viewpoints, a technique that contradicts the traditional, single-point perspective of a camera’s view.

Instead, Hockney’s multifaceted rendering captures the chair as experienced by a human observer, moving around it, viewing it from different angles, bringing prior knowledge and expectations to bear. The viewer is not presented with a singular, ‘objective’ view of the chair, but rather a collection of subjective experiences, pieced together to form a dynamic, psychological perception of the chair.

What he highlights is that we view objects not in isolation, but in relation to ourselves, our position and our movement. This resonates with our daily experiences — as we move around the world, our perspective continuously changes, and our brain interprets these shifts in the context of our psychological state, expectations and prior knowledge.

How to Make a Mountain Into a Molehill

Science provides us with tangible evidence that our mental state can distort our perception of reality. For example, in a fascinating study researchers found that our social support systems can significantly influence our physical perception of our surroundings.

Participants in the study asked to rate the steepness of a hill when viewing it alone and with friends. Intriguingly, the hill appeared up to 15% steeper when viewed alone vs with friends. This study brilliantly highlights how our psyche can interact with our interpretation of the physical world around us.

If you’re navigating a journey alone or without a sense of support, the hurdles you encounter might seem disproportionately challenging. In contrast, being surrounded by a robust support system can modify your perception of these hurdles, making them seem less intimidating and more within your capacity to handle.

Navigating Perceptions and Reality

Understanding that our perceptions are deeply intertwined with our psychological state can be a powerful tool in life and in business. It teaches us to question our perceptions, to understand their subjectivity and to consider how our psychological state might be colouring our view of reality.

Similarly, our perceptions in business are not merely an objective evaluation of facts and figures. They encompass our hopes, our fears, our dreams and our experiences.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”-Anaïs Nin

However recognising the influence of our psychological state on our perception of reality is only the first step. It’s equally important to take action based on this understanding. Here are some practical steps to improve your world view:

  1. Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness to become more aware of how your thoughts and emotions may be influencing your perceptions. Regular meditation can help you cultivate mindfulness and provide the space for inner work.
  2. Reflection and self-analysis: Regularly set aside time for reflection and self-analysis. Dive deep into understanding your motivations, fears and desires. This can help you uncover hidden biases or unconscious thought patterns that may be distorting your perceptions. Read more on how you’re repeating the same patterns here.
  3. Seek feedback: Actively seek feedback from trusted advisors, mentors or peers. Their perspectives can provide a counterbalance to your own and help you understand aspects of yourself that you might be overlooking.
  4. Develop your support system: Invest in building and maintaining a strong support system. This could include fellow entrepreneurs, mentors, friends, or family. Their support can literally make mountains easier to climb!
  5. Self-care and emotional wellbeing: Prioritise your physical and emotional wellbeing as a key business activity. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate rest and time for relaxation can contribute to a more stable psychological state, and consequently, a clearer perception of reality.

Remember, success isn’t just about the external journey of building and growing; it’s equally about your internal journey of personal growth and self-awareness.

As Anaïs Nin reminds us, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” So let’s make sure we’re all as happy and fulfilled as possible.

If you have thoughts on this post I’d love to hear from you. My contact details are here.

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Dr. Louise Rix
The Mental Game

Female Health, Product, ex-Chief Medical Officer at Béa Fertility, Founder, VC. 🧠 Writing about health tech, female health and The Mental Game 💡 louiserix.com