Perception as Reality

Savarese and Zunshine come across the topic of “mind reading” which they describe as “the evolved cognitive adaptation that prompts us to explain observable behavior as caused by unobservable mental states, such as thoughts, feelings, and intentions” (Savarese & Zunshine 21). This describes the attempt made by those who would be classified as neurotypical to explain those who do not exhibit neurotypical behavior by ways of classification, which in turn can dehumanize those who do not exhibit this behavior. These “cognitive biases are inseparable from mind reading” (21). The reason for this inseparability is the mere fact that in order to “mind read” you must compare one mind to another. When you do so, certain relationships occur such as superiority vs inferiority, typical vs atypical, sane vs insane etc.

What happens when you remove the comparison though? What happens when you look inward? After all, thoughts, feelings, intentions, behavior all comes from perception. When we remove the comparison and examine the perception of the individual by themselves, we come to a pretty complicated question. What is real? Is perception reality? If we eliminate the comparison between more than one mind, the answer is overwhelmingly yes. Perception to the individual is reality to the individual.

Whether intentional or not, Alberto Rios seems to touch on this idea in “The Back of My Head in a Crowd” toward the end. He writes about his perceptions, particularly of his husband. These were the same perceptions he experienced while his husband was alive and identified or perceived them as his husband. Although neurotypical behavior or reasoning would determine these experiences to be sensations separate of their deceased loved one, Rios identifies them as one and the same. Because he “can smell him. It’s him.” This perception is Rios’ reality.

The biggest question that then comes from this is: just because something is not neurotypical, is it any less real to the individual who experiences it? If it is real to the individual, is it real to others as well? Or must perception be shared for it to be real? I think these ideas really complicate the topic of “mind reading.”

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