Powers of Perception

Watching a video demonstrates how our eyes can fool us through our interpretation of visual data we gather from the familiar world. The video shows a man who walks into a room with a very simple scene. The room contains a chair, a table with two tea cups and saucers sitting on top, and a hanging portrait on the wall behind him. What we don’t realize from our perspective is that the room is much different than it appears. The first object the man interacts with is the tea cup and saucer closest to him, which proves to be of normal size. Next, the man walks towards the camera and within a foot of the camera picks up what is now a miniature size chair and sets it beside the teacup and saucer. As he then walks toward the back of the room, it becomes plain that it is farther back than first assumed. We now see that the second tea cup is as large as a basketball and the saucer is as round as a serving platter. The final deception is revealed as he again approaches the camera to remove the hanging portrait which sits no further than an inch from the lens and is the size of a lady bug. I describe this scene because it exemplifies how “Data do not tell us a story. We use data to craft a story that comports with our understanding of the world.” (Bonilla-Silva and Zuberi, 2008) It seems that every crime show like CSI I’ve ever watched, someone says to let the evidence tell the story. I think it would be better to say we have evidence to support the story we’re telling and be aware that we’re not totally objective. The truth of research is never without some dependence on our individual learned perception.

Despite the failures to be objective it is important to have a positive approach to research. I connected our perceptions to the idea that is the background of my topic of inquiry; “exploiting the strengths of Communities of Color”(Yosso, 2005). The whole effort to explain why students of color do not progress at the same rate as whites (Yosso, 2005) may be addressed by the methods schools use for instruction. Not all students and communities learn the same way and it may be possible that the methods of instruction can be learned from within the community. I don’t think there is anyone who would not agree that our education system needs a face lift. I question if communities will ever collectively have the force of will to break the mold by abandoning the models of instruction that have used for over 100 years.

Smith brings up a good point on behalf of indigenous people. Academic writing does not support or even talk about the indigenous people’s way of life and therefore is giving the impression that it isn’t important.  As a result indigenous history effectively being replaced by another history “about the powerful and how they became powerful”(Smith, 2006).  I fear the indigenous Maori efforts “to carry out research which recovers histories, reclaims lands and resources and restores justice, hardly seems possible.”(Smith, 2006) Perception changes things. First, it doesn’t seem possible to recover what is now history without having experienced it. It’s like watching a movie, where historical events become modern interpretations. Consequently, all of the Maori efforts to recover history will probably lead to a lot of uncertainty. Second, the idea of reclaiming land is a contradiction. The whole idea of owning and claiming land is imperialistic in nature. In truth, what rights do any of us have to land?

Acknowledge that research and knowledge begin with an inquiry and the answers are going to be different with everyone you ask. No one perceives things with an identical interpretation. Therefore, all we’re left with is more uncertainty. However, take comfort, while uncertainty is an “individual endeavor, managing it is a social endeavor” (Jordan and McDaniel, 2014) so you’re not alone.



Jordan, M. E., & McDaniel, R. R. (2010). Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams : The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 00(2002), 1–47.


Power of Perspective – Mind Tricks Illusion. Retrieved 06, 2014, from  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z1fhClypjg


Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. New York: University of Otago Press


Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, (8)1, 69-91.


Zuberi, T. (2008). White logic, white methods: racism and methodology. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.