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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

School Winner: Humans and Perception

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    10 Nov

    Science fact

    Elephants rarely get cancer: less than 5% of captive elephants die of cancer, compared to 20% of humans. Elephant genomes have at least 20 copies of the tumour suppressor, p53, which may explain their low cancer rates relative to humans, who have only one copy. 

    Find out more

    emily-hockham-qegs-horncastle14c-emily-horncastle-croppedEssentially everyone has their own reality. Everyone has their own little world with thousands of things different to the person stood next to them.  Say for example there were fifty things going on at every given moment around every person on the planet, and we observe maybe 30 of these at every given moment; any slight change to the world around us. Well those thirty things that you witness and subconsciously notice are going to be different to the thirty I witness. Perception essentially is the way in which everyone interprets different signals in order to react. For example, you perceive danger to be occurring and your nervous system would be working in order to get you out of that situation. Although everyone’s perception is different and therefore we all make decisions based on different thought processes changing how we act in different situations- and this obviously makes us all so wonderfully different. So why are there certain things that we try and attempt to all perceive to be the same?

    Colours delve into the depth of this too. Your green is different to my green, your red is different to my red and so on. To combat this, we have somehow come up with a standard colour that everyone is apparently seeing to categorise the parts of the visible light spectrum that are reflected by different surfaces.

    On a basic level, we need sensory perception in order to be able to stay alive; even this differs. In the past some psychologists thought that sensory impressions for example seeing something and perceptions of seeing something were the same – although this isn’t accurate as everyone is different. A light moving through darkness might be seen as a light simply gliding along however it may be perceived as a series of lights being turned on and off in succession. Every living organism constantly receives multiple sensory impressions, but perceives relatively few objects and events at a given time. Obviously if we perceived everything going on around us we would face almost an overload! So we are trained to perceive things that are opposite to the rest of the items going on as a safety feature, also perception is based on personality, motives, interests, expectations. Following this conclusion why are there certain things we perceive as wrong? Some people perceive different cultural and social activities to be wrong, in a similar way they perceive red being the colour red. It sounds trivial in this way although it brings to light the idea that if we simply put away all perception thoughts that weren’t necessary, such as sensing danger, then the world would be a much easier place to live in.

    Does it matter that we all see colours differently?

    Does it matter that some people have different views on the world and how they want to live? Perception should be used to our advantage, not to segregate certain things. People should be metaphorically open to all the colours of the universe.

    Emily Hockham
    Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Horncastle
    "I am currently in Year 12 studying Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Maths A levels. In the future I would like to train to be a surgeon."