Perception, Opinion, or Judgment

I often struggle with these 3 terms, perception, opinion, and judgment. In our casual social conversation, often these terms are used with a negative or positive connotation. For example, my perception of a place, thing, or person is nothing more than my opinion based on my direct or indirect observations, which is a judgment (a conclusion) I have made again from direct and indirect observations (perception). 

So, I have redefined these 3 English words for myself. Perception is an image I have drawn in my mind based on some data, hence, this is the data collection step. Now data can come from multiple sources, data can be valid or invalid but at this step, we don’t make the final judgment, we just create a visual image, a perception of that place, thing or person. Next comes the step of the analysis. Once the data is gathered, we start analyzing, so we start forming opinions about the place, thing, or person. Opinions are analyzed perceptions. And lastly, we make a conclusion from our opinion, we call that Judgment. 

I always wondered why people say don’t be judgmental. For some reason being judgmental has a very negative connotation but it’s nothing more than a conclusion reached based on our perception and opinion. As a normal developed human brain, it is impossible not to form a judgment, if you have already collected the data. Data just can’t sit idly in a corner of your brain and not do anything with it. When we analyze the data, it is the only natural process of our brain to form an opinion and come to a conclusion.

When we say don’t be judgmental, I think we mean two things – 1. Check our data thoroughly before analyzing it. Form an opinion based on only valid data. 2. Form an unbiased judgment. Often our judgments are based on our past experiences hence we can only create biased opinions and judgments. We often forget to even acknowledge that there is personal bias. In social conversations, opinions are usually regarded as personal bias-laced analyzed data but people always expect judgment to be unbiased. 

So when we make a judgment, especially about a person, people say “don’t make a judgment” or “don’t be judgmental”; is it because people may not trust our judgment, know that our judgments are biased, or are they questioning the validity of our data. Imagine judgments based on invalid data and highly influenced by personal experiences.

Coming back to the original thought of perceptions, I learned two things from this, one that we have to be very careful with our data input. As they say, Perceptions can be deceiving because more often than not, the data sources are unknown, unreliable, or highly biased. Someone else’s judgment can become our data source, OUR perception. We say I trust that person or a news/information source and form perceptions, opinions, and judgments based on that one source; exactly what happened with the followers of Trump, who trusted him to be their sole source of socio-political perceptions, opinions, and judgments. (Of course, that’s my personal perception, opinion and judgment 🙂 )

So who you trust can become the source of your perceptions, opinions, and judgments. Select your data points carefully. As they say in the IT world, garbage in, garbage out.

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