SDP_050 Subjective Reality Versus Objective Reality

PODCAST-Subjective reality is “subject” to an elaborate set of filters, any one of which can modify a perception of that reality; sensory apparatus (e.g. the rods and cones in our eyes), sensory processing (e.g. the visual cortex), higher level brain function, and psychological factors (e.g. expectations). As such, what one person experiences is always different than what any other person experiences, but usually in subtle ways.

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Two weeks of sunshine, high temperatures and no rain for many people is seen as desirable and good. The farmer however would like some rain in between times because otherwise his fields dry out, older people are not so happy with high air temperatures because it causes breathing difficulties etc. Who is being objective here? Obviously our assessment of the weather depends amongst other things significantly on what we want to do (swimming in an outdoor pool, working in the field, working in an office, travelling, resting etc.), upon our mood and our state of health. Exactly the same weather on a given day gives one person great pleasure and another one annoyance.


A mental representation of an impending event relies heavily on information from past experience and, therefore, must incorporate information from brain regions associated with memory recall. The hippocampus is involved in neural processes supporting the retrieval of past memories and is reciprocally connected with the amygdala in a fashion that may support affective modulation of memory recall. Expectations of decreased pain profoundly reduce both the subjective experience of pain and pain-related brain activation.


Kenneth Boulding (1956) did not write about how film influenced people’s “images” but he did write about how messages change or fail to change the “images” people have of their world. “Images” are people’s store of subjective knowledge about an event, person, or an experience. It is our overall image that determines our behavior. Boulding pointed out that any message has meaning to the extent that it can change our image. Messages often have a limited impact, particularly entertainment messages, and are interpreted as irrelevant to our image. Many messages can have a regularized impact, changing the image in a predictable manner. These types of messages serve to confirm existing beliefs and add detail to images we already hold. A message can also have a profound impact, changing the image in a revolutionary way. We can discover new facts, encounter new theories about why an event happened, and have our convictions about a past “truth” weakened. Historians feared radical change in what people thought about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, due to Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie, JFK, which promoted a conspiracy.


Objective reality completely exists independent of any conscious entity to observe it.  It also is bound to the consensus requirement. For you to see a passing car and make it turn red just because you want to, would violate the color consensus that must be maintained for the other 1000 people that see that car drive by. In fact, there is nothing to say that the aggregate of conscious intents from all conscious entities fully shape the subjective reality.



Boulding, K. E. (1956). The image: Knowledge in life and society. Ann Arbor. MI: The University of Michigan Press.