What we find in the world around us is definitely a function of what we go looking for. In the domain of science, a research study will start with a hypothesis, then attempt to prove it. Often, however, this type of focused looking will cause the researcher to miss another bit of data that might be extraordinarily significant, though not immediately related to the hypothesis. Regina tells a story that dramatically demonstrates that we can't see something for which we don't have a point of reference. A young Tibetan farmer left his ancestral village in the company of an American peace activist; they took a plane to California. The Tibetan man had never seen the ocean - nor any massive body of water, for that matter. As the two men strolled along a boardwalk in Long Beach, the young Tibetan was overwhelmed with impressions. The thousand-foot-long ocean liner the Queen Mary, docked at the pier, elicited no response. Even when the American pointed it out, along with many other wonders, the younger man seemed dazed and non-comprehending. When a small dinghy with a loud and sputtering outboard motor moved into view, however, the Tibetan youth began waving with excitement. Pointing at the small boat, he shouted, A jeep riding on the water!"
Researchers in the field of human consciousness tell us that our senses are actually data-reduction devices, filtering out vast amounts of information that would otherwise create undue confusion. What we end up perceiving in the world around us is largely the stuff we need for survival, for comfort, and for stimulation, as well as the stuff that reinforces our beliefs. All these things create a sense of safety and continuity for us. Therefore, we will often hear what we need, expect, or want to hear, rather than what the other person is actually saying. We will see what we need, want, or expect to see. We will even experience physical sensations, including discomfort, illness symptoms, or the relief of symptoms, because of what we think or need to believe.
Imagination is more important than data collecting, since there is shortage of the former, and a surfeit of the latter. Indeed, information by itself will rarely give a good idea. It is the imaginative skill applied to looking at data that makes the big difference. —Nicholas Berry