Were You Even Paying Attention?

Have you ever wondered if people are reacting to the same game, movie, or speech you just witnessed, watched, or heard? Do you wonder if they were even paying attention? No matter how many times we hear that others see the world differently—filtered through the lens of their own past experience and perceptions, it can still be a bit jarring to hear someone spout off about how awful something was that you thought was brilliant, impressive, or thought-provoking.

From the President’s speech to football games and Serena’s outburst on the tennis court, there was a lot to view, have an opinion about, and comment on this past week. If you find yourself chatting with someone online or in person about what went on and then your jaw falling open at their utterly stupid interpretation of events, consider the truth that no two brains are alike and therefore no two perceptions of what was experienced will be the same.

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, points out “Our brains are so sensitive to external inputs that their physical wiring depends upon the culture in which they find themselves.” [Emphasis added]. He’s not talking about differing opinions or emotions which also play a role. Medina’s talking about that fact that your brain is wired differently from mine (Brain Rule #3), so I will process the exact same inputs differently than you will. How much differently appears to depend upon how dramatically different our cultural, educational, and environmental experiences have been to date (not to mention the emotional state you’re experiencing at the time).

Even the seat you’re sitting in to watch the same football game your friend or spouse is watching will give you a different perspective on the game than they have. Add to that all of your past experience watching games, the reactions of people around you to those games, the advertising you’ve seen about football games, and so on, and you realize that even identical twins sitting side by side will have a different take on the ‘same’ experience.

So before you jump to the conclusion that you’re surrounded by idiots, remember that others can’t possibly realize how truly brilliant you are because they haven’t had the same incredible experiences and learning you’ve had (and vice versa).

Except of course when it comes to USC football…I know without a doubt that the final 95 yard drive down the field to score and win the game at Ohio State was incredible and reflective of how truly phenomenal the team is. Right?

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