In terms of meaning, it is practical to be able to tell the difference between these sounds. Categorical perception allows us to understand whether someone is saying “Low income residents will be given heat subsidies” versus “Low income residents will be given hate subsidies. Our ability to navigate slight differences in articulation of speech sounds helps us to understand speech even when the speaker has an accent that is different from your own.
In our neurology class, we learned about the concept of “referred sensation”, which is where we feel discomfort in a part of our body that is distant from the site of the actual disorder, irritation or injury. Because of this default of perception, the professors and clinical supervisors reminded us frequently not to take patients’ descriptions of the location of their discomfort at face value, but instead to conduct a full examination.
After engaging in clinical practice for some time, I began to understand the myriad ways in which perception leads people astray. We never hear our own voices the same way in which others do. When helping people through vocal rehabilitation, sometimes their voices return to old non-functional patterns because their perceptual systems are telling them that the new vocal pattern is not “normal” and therefore sounds “strange”.
The evidence for the lies that perception tells is all around us. Consider the research regarding crime witnesses. It appears that more often than not two people witnessing the same crime will disagree on the details and at times the major elements of what they saw.
Do you have any episodes of faulty perception that helped you recognize a moment of prajna? Comment and share!