I can already tell that my master’s program in Applied Positive Pscyhology (MAPP) has changed me because when I returned to work yesterday after the five day onsite immersion, I felt like I was an alien entering a somewhat familiar but strange environment. In five amazing days, my perspective has shifted and I am now different.
I’m having difficulty identifying the one MAPP experience has caused this shift. Rather, I would say that it has been a series of realizations ranging from “Aha” to “Omygod!!!!” moments, both of which has occurred on a regular basis during the onsite but also beginning with the pre-immersion assignments. They are so frequent, in fact, that I’ve started keeping a separate list entitled “Mindblowing Moments.” These moments ranged from academic to personal. One huge realization on the personal level was that I most definitely am in the right place. I need no reassurance to know this. The time, effort and expense will be worth every bit of this fantastic ride that I am on.
That being said, the academic concept that will resonate with me the most after all that we’ve learned in five days is Chandra Sripada’s theory about perception. There are twelve levels between our retina and brain, and each level manipulates/interprets the information from the level below. The top communicates more avidly with the bottom, telling it what to expect and believe.
This theory resonates with what I know about the relative nature of reality (it’s not just a cliché anymore) but also with the assertion in Haidt’s Happiness Hypothesis that we make decisions based on our gut feelings, then justify it with rationalization. This is consistent also with Paul Bloom’s notions of essentialism which serves to help us categorize things and people in our world into good/bad categories: a sort of mental shorthand. In short, as Bloom states, belief drives perception. Now there’s a scientific explanation. The relativism of our beliefs shapes our present and future, as well as our past as we reinterpret our memories each time we revisit them.
I don’t know about you, but when an idea goes from cliché to scientifically affirmed, it takes on a whole new dimension. How does knowing that our beliefs color a vast and enormous portion of our perception change how we interact with the world? I guess I’m about to find out.