Learning! — Construals

Social psychology teaches us that each person behaves predictably given certain social situations. How we talk to family is not how we talk to friends or people we don’t know. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but construals, (defined as “how we interpret situations”,) are super important for how we go about our daily lives.

You’re going to treat people differently depending on who they are. If you’re talking to somebody you haven’t met, our brains will try to tell us how we should interact with them based on who we think we are, and it’ll scramble to soak up all the information we can about that person. Consider the story of the Prince and the Pauper. When they switch places, people don’t notice because they don’t perceive anything being amiss.

But the thing I find fascinating about this concept is how it bleeds over into philosophy. Specifically, I’ll bring up Ralph Waldo Emerson. He teaches us that each of us live in our own, individual worlds, created by our own minds based on past experiences and our own personalities (I’m sure you’re familiar with nature vs. nurture).

Our own individual worlds are incomplete. We are never operating with all the facts. For example, I might hate the rain because I work in a job where I have to deal with a lot (and I did have a job like that). You might love the rain because it makes your grass so much greener the next day, and it makes your house looked beautiful. This could, in turn, lead us to regard something as simple as rain as a positive or negative influence/stimulus on our life. I might have terrible days because past experience has taught me that rainy days aren’t good days. Your past experience could say exactly the opposite.

Now, obviously we can’t say either of us is “right” or “wrong”. We’re both right, given the individual circumstances, but what is the “truth”? Is rain a positive or negative influence on society? Even a question like this is fundamentally impossible to answer in regards to Emersonian philosophy because it states that humans are incapable of perceiving reality. It is always under the influence of past experiences, and these cloud our judgment. We can’t jump into the mind of the person that cut us off today to see that they’ve just had a stressful morning and are going to be late to work. If we knew them, we might be understanding, but to a stranger, we hate them because that’s all the information we have on their personality.

The closest we can get to finding the “true reality” is by learning as much as we can. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle. We can guess what the puzzle may be if we filled out the edge pieces, but the more we learn and understand every aspect of the world around us, the more we start to see the full picture.

Long story short: Don’t jump to conclusions. It’s natural instinct to assume you’re right and the way you see the world as “correct”, but in the end, we’re all biased and seeing it through a narrow lens. So take those construals, figure out why you interpret things the way you do, and see if you can find another way of thinking.

One thought on “Learning! — Construals

  1. “Don’t just to conclusions” – don’t jump either =P

    I can’t think of anything too add, but I just agree with this whole concept/post in general. So this me just nodding along with you.


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