The Model: adding belief and perception

August 29, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog, Evolutionary Psychology, Nature

[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Our Model so far comprised a cycle of your environment, emotions, and behavior. We’re still building.

We don’t develop motivations based on our environments directly. The limitations of our senses mean we never know the full story of anything. The limitations of our memory and mental processing power mean we couldn’t comprehend it all anyway, and whatever we do comprehend we forget.

Our limited memories and minds filter what we perceive of the world. At the most basic level, we don’t know what our senses don’t sense. The universe stretches on for billions of light years in every direction, yet most of our lives we only see and hear a few meters from us. We taste, smell, and touch things in our immediate vicinity.

More relevant to our behavior, we only react to things in our environment we sense. If we don’t sense a tiger sneaking up behind us, we don’t run away from it. We only observe other people’s behavior, not their intent, which we can only guess at.

How we interpret the signals from our senses depends on our beliefs. If we believe someone is a jerk, for example, we tend to interpret their behavior as reinforcing that their jerkiness. If we believe someone else an upstanding person, we might interpret the same behavior as reinforcing how upstanding they are. Psychologists call this effect confirmation bias, only one of many so-called cognitive biases.

More blatant than mere bias are entire beliefs, whether based in observation and evidence or not. If we believe a tiger is sneaking up on us, we’ll feel fear, even if no tiger is there.

We now have most of the Model in this cycle

environment beliefs emotions behavior

Again, I’ve simplified the Model to simplify communicating and understanding it. I’ve separated elements that interact. As we work with the model, we’ll see more richness within it. Even in its current simplicity, the Model displays great complexity.

Tomorrow: adding reward to complete the Model

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2 responses on “The Model: adding belief and perception

  1. Pingback: Joshua Spodek » The Model: adding emotions

  2. Pingback: Why I don’t eat meat: non-issue5: feeling closer to nature | Joshua Spodek

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