There is a vast difference between the way human beings experience the world, and how most other animals do. This is often difficult for us to remember – that what we perceive as reality is actually an edited version, based entirely on what we do and do not pick up from our surroundings. Though we inhabit the same physical space, our perceptions of the world around us are greatly varied from those of other creatures, depending on the differing abilities of our senses.
Our senses provide our brains with information about our environment. The brain then translates this raw data, organizing it and providing us a multi-dimensional picture of “reality”. What we perceive is a result of eons of evolution determining which types of information are the most beneficial to our survival. Lizards, for example, have the capacity to discern vastly more colors than we do, perhaps because it benefits them to determine which shade of leaf will be harboring specific grubs for their consumption. An ability which would be of little use to us.
sight – While it is true that – during daylight, at least – our vision is superior to that of most mammals (one might say “more accurate”) due to our binocular vision system, once darkness falls we are at a distinct disadvantage.
scent – Our capacity for interpreting scents and odors falls woefully short of that of dogs and snakes, both of which interpret the world primarily through their sense of smell.
sound – Although we have a very acute capability to discern between subtle nuances of sound (an ability which allows us to create and decode the intricacies of speech and language), when it comes to what we hear, even mice and bats – which can hear much quieter and higher pitched sounds than we can detect – have us beat. And dogs and cats can simply hear a great deal more than we do.
Because we rely primarily on visual acuity, does this mean that our perception of the world is more accurate than that of other animals? Or is it merely different… Consider what we’ve been missing! Just imagine what we could learn about the nature of “reality” if we could coherently communicate with the animals!
What can we gain when we acknowledge that our version of “reality” isn’t the only version? And can keeping our minds open to this truth help us to understand alternate perspectives among our fellow human beings, as well?