Subjectivity among Humans

Yenisel - Miami, Florida
Entered on November 9, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: question

The way humans perceive things is highly subjective to external stimuli; opinions are often biased and shaped by what other people or by the presumption of a certain event. Our opinions are almost never a manifestation of our own beliefs, but rather, are a conglomerate of what one wants to see, what is expected to believe, and previous experience in a situation. People actively process incoming stimulation while ignoring others. Moreover, they impose organization on the stimuli that they pay attention to. These tendencies combine to make perception personalized and subjective.

A perfect example proving the subjectivity of people was demonstrated in a study in which students from Princeton and Dartmouth were told to watch a football game for infraction of the rules. Both groups saw the same film, but the Princeton students saw the “Dartmouth” players commit twice as many infractions as the Dartmouth students. The reality is that the game was many different games and that each version of the events was just as “real” to one person as to the other. This example shows how people sometimes see what they want to see. When people believe what they want to believe, they become biased and this can lead to ignorant opinions and the rejection of factual information. For example, many people are likely to defend their loved ones even if they committed a crime just because they cannot bear to think that their loved one is a criminal. I think people must never deceive themselves; it is foolish and leads to undesirable effects.

Other times, the person’s opinion is preconceived because of what others say so they tend to see what they expect to see. For example, a group of students were told that their new professor was a warm, industrious person while the other group was told to expect a cold, critical person. All the subjects were exposed to the same person for 20 minutes; the group that expected a “warm” teacher described him as more considerate, sociable, and humorous than the other group. From personal experience, I know this is true because I had a teacher that I thought was mean and I saw qualities in her that reflected that. Others would agree but they’d tell me other things about her that they thought made her mean and then I started to create these qualities to associate her with them even when they were not really present.

When people encounter a situation similar to one previously experienced, they associate the events to formulate an opinion on a situation or person. The incident with Cubans and the Democratic Party during the battle at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, 1961 illustrates this concept. President John F. Kennedy sent artillery to Cuban rebels, but in the day of battle, the U.S did not provide air cover and hundreds of Cubans were killed or imprisoned. To this day, many Cubans consider themselves Republican and find immediate defects in Democratic candidates, such as Barack Obama and even became paranoid that he may be communist, so when speculation proposed this idea, many became convinced that he was communist without proper information or evidence to support that claim.

Subjectivity is present in the words and opinions of everyone; people let themselves be swayed by what others say or past experiences. But it is crucial to be impartial to situations and people because it is the only way to see things clearly, without the blanket of obscurity that a biased opinion can give. When humans think critically and empirically, there is little room for ignorance and it paves the way for rational, enlightened thinking. This is what I believe.