Perspective is Everything

women-open‘Normal’ gender identities navigate and develop within a coherent framework, a socially accepted and desired structure, which evidences the link between biological sex, gender and sexuality. There are two sexes: male and female, each possessing certain genders, behaviours and roles within society. A female will follow feminine pursuits: cooking, childrearing, be gentle, caring, and emotional; possess a heterosexual desire towards the opposite sex, her exterior pretty and womanly.  A male will follow masculine pursuits: engineering, economics, sport, be strong, aggressive and logical; be attracted to females, his exterior manly and rugged.

This is the ‘norm’, the framework in which humans follow and function. Women would stay at home, rear the children and dote upon the man. Men would go out to work and provide financial stability. Women were viewed as the weaker sex, being less valued in the work place and other male orientated roles. This was and could still be based on the hereditary differences between men and women; however, this runs the risk of generalizing all males and females. Nurture debates are also to be considered.

As a result, society changed and outgrew this initial framework after recognizing its incompetence in creating the idea that men are more valuable and of higher status than women. Instead, women and men are encouraged and now viewed as equal. However, society still favors and desires logic and coherence, thus certain frameworks and prejudices still exist within sex and gender categories.  This is also the reason as to why those who are categorized as outside these ‘norms’ are viewed and represented as ‘unnatural’ such as drag queens, trans and intersex individuals. Society and people desire and still follow more logical and scientific views instead of psychological ones. If we could re-frame people’s thinking on sexes and gender, society could once again change and form a new framework. Re-framing situations and people impacts the way we feel, view and react to them. Thus, perspective becomes everything.


Such views are expressed in a TED video, ‘Perspective is everything’ with Roy Sutherland.  Sutherland outlines 4 things we often forget:

  • Things are not what they are; they are what we think they are
  • Things are what we compare them to
  • Yet we make psychology subordinate to everything else
  • Psychological value is often the best kind

Sutherland begins the talk by introducing the invention of the electronic cigarette, which has brought him much happiness. In the U.K ever since smoking in public places became banned Sutherland didn’t enjoy a drinks party. The endless talking and constant socializing whilst holding a glass of wine was tiring.  People also enjoy time alone to reflect or simply just to take a break, to be silent perhaps even when at social events. Without the ability to smoke, if the person retires to another space in the room or outside to be alone or to look out of a window, people will view them as somewhat odd or “an anti-social friendless idiot”. However, give them a cigarette and people view the situation entirely differently. This example evidences how a change in posture or act can re-frame the perspectives of a certain activity and individual. Without the cigarette the individual is perceived as anti-social, with the cigarette rather thoughtful, “a fucking philosopher” maybe even viewed as confident within himself or herself, as they don’t feel the need to be around people constantly. And so the power of re-framing things cannot be “overstated”.

For Sutherland, our experiences, costs, things don’t rely on what they actually are but how we view them. Reality is not dependant, rather our perspectives. For example, an unemployed young person and a pensioner are basically the same. They both have a lot of time on their hands and don’t work but the latter are seen as happy and the young persons depressed. Pensioners view the situation as a choice they’ve made whilst the young see this as something which has been thrust upon them. Again this example proves how our perceptions and feelings toward the same situation impact the way we feel and view them.

The pensioners feel they are in control of the situation whilst the young persons are out of control of the situation there in. For Sutherland, it’s this lack of control, which causes these negative perspectives and depression. Humans idealize and desire the idea of possessing free will as it means they are in utter control of their reality and circumstances, thus creating positive perspectives. And so life is not so much about happiness but rather the control we have on our lives, which cause happiness. How you frame things is really important. “Psychological value is great”.

One of Sutherlands close friends suggests that we should be more concerned in exploring humanity’s hidden shallows as opposed to humanity’s hidden depths, “Impressions have an insane effect on what we think and what we do”.  However, we don’t have a solid human psychological model or framework, which raises complexities within decision-making and perception. Economists and engineers have strong models and structures to build from and for ideas to hang from whereas those who favor psychological solutions don’t. Psychological solutions are based on a random collection of individual insights instead of an overall model.

Sutherland feels we have prioritized too much time in economical and logical solutions as opposed to creative and psychological ones on the basis that they have a robust and solid structure before them. To evidence this point, Sutherland uses his example of the Euro star. 6 million pound was used to reduce travel times between London and Paris by approximately 40 minutes, an economic solution. Sutherland considers more creative and psychological solutions for the Euro star, which could have perhaps altered the perspectives of spending 6 million pound to improve the Euro star journey.

For 0.01% of this money WIFI could have been installed on the trains, which from a psychological stance could have improved the travelers’ enjoyment on the train, having free access to the online world, thus giving the impression of the journey being shorter-time flies when having fun! For 10% of the money Euro star could have employed every male and female supermodel across the world to work on the trains and serve the passengers. This would have left 5 million left over and probably would have resulted in people thinking that the train journey are not long enough! Sutherland, illustrated humorously but effectively how the journey time could have been reduced just as effectively through psychological solutions and arguable more importantly by spending far less money. For Sutherland, there is an imbalance between the way we treat logical ideas and creative ones.

Sutherland goes on to give successful examples of those who have employed psychological solutions to everyday circumstances. The London Underground installed doc matrix display boards on the platforms, which improved customer satisfaction incredibly. The ability to know exactly how long the train will take to arrive eases individuals. Being told that the train will be 7 minutes through a countdown clock offers a time frame and level of certainty. On the other hand, making a person wait 4 minutes without a clock gives them a sense of uncertainty, frustration and the impression of time moving slower. In Korea, red traffic lights have a countdown delay, thus decreasing road accidents, frustration and road rage as you are provided with the knowledge of how long you have to wait. From this Sutherland hopes that humans combine three things when decision-making: technology, psychology and economics.

Overall, it seems that we live in a world that is still driven by logic and numerical solutions as opposed to creative and psychological ones. We prioritize logical ideas and thoughts over psychological ones innately as we view logic and reason as right. In relation to my topic this is probably why for many biological and scientific solutions in relation to a persons’ gender are treated and maintained as more valuable, trustworthy and correct. How can one deny the physical properties and genetic programming of a person? They exist as nature intended, their hormones and chromosomes uniquely orchestrated creating particular effects on their behaviour and overall gender. How can someone’s’ gender and biological sex be different? It’s incoherent. And so people outside of ‘normal’ gender identities are perceived differently as society still favors logical, numerical and scientific ideas.

“Perception is leaky”

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