The Psychology of Perspectivism


Perspectivism is a philosophical principle developed by Friedrich Nietzsche which states that there is no real knowledge or truth as every truth is relative to the perspective of the individual. It challenges the idea of objective truth, which argues that there is a single truth that can be discovered through logic and empirical observation. Perspectivism states that a complete knowledge of reality is not possible, as every belief or theory depends on the observer’s point of view.  It stems from their personal biases, cultural conditioning and lived experiences. There is no better perspective than another as each perspective has got its own justification.

Let’s take an example for better understanding

Given that to have more clarity on the concept, let’s take a very primary example, Three people visited a subway for brunch. The first person is a fitness instructor trying to lose weight. The second person is a bulker with a gym body. And the third person is a middle-class economist. There is an offer going on, that says that the subway sandwich of your choice will be given at 150rs. The first person who is trying to lose weight might order a whole wheat bread loaded with veggies and less cheese. The second person might order whole wheat bread loaded mostly with protein. The third person might want to take full advantage of the offer and take the sandwich filled with both veggies, protein, and cheese. This doesn’t mean that the sandwich the first person ordered was the best and nor the other way round. This simply means that every person ordered what is best for them in their opinion. And none of the opinion is wrong as they have their justifications to explain their choice.

Also Read: Adapting Perspectives: The Interplay of Acculturation and Assimilation

While this was a very simplified example of this complex theory, it might have been somewhat clear to you what exactly perspectivism is. It actually promotes nonjudgmental thinking.

Theoretical Work on Perspectivism

Perspectivism was first proposed by Friedrich Nietzsche. He was a German philosopher, stated that our knowledge about the world is partial and highly relative to our own individual perspective and interpretations. He rejected the idea of single objective truth rather believed in multiplicity of perspectives. Every individual has their own perspective shaped by their personal experience and biases and these multiple perspectives give rise to plurality of truths rather than single universal truth. Later his work was forwarded by Michael Foucault, who emphasized the role of social and historical contexts in knowledge production.

Perception and Cognition:

Perspectivism influences how individuals perceive and interpret information. Cognitive processes such as attention, memory and decision making are all influenced by the perspectives individuals adopt. The person might pay attention only to the stimuli which holds true for their perspective while ignoring others. Also, memories are not perfect recordings of past events, but reconstruction influenced by one’s perspectives.

Perspectives affect the details of the information we recall based on the emotions and biases at the time of encoding. Perspectivism also impacts the judgement and decision making of an individual. Cognitive biases like confirmation bias and hindsight bias, stem from the tendency to interpret information in a way that aligns with one’s values and beliefs.

Also Read: Breaking Stigmas: Modern Perspectives on Hysteria and Possession

Social Psychology:

Perspectivism contributes to the formation of stereotypes and prejudices. Individuals generalize traits and behaviors to entire social groups based on their preconceived notions about the group. By recognizing the role of perspectives, we can mitigate stereotypes by building perspective taking and empathy. It also helps in interpersonal relations as it promotes empathy and understanding which are the basis of a close relationship.

Clinical Psychology:

Perspectivism contributes to challenging cognitive distortions in cognitive behavioral approaches of therapy like CBT. Cognitive distortions are irrational or biased ways of thinking that contribute to psychological distress. Rapport building, a crucial and a very fundamental part of therapeutic process, is essentially based on the therapist’s ability to understand a client’s perspective and experience. It helps in building empathy and create a supportive therapeutic environment.

Developmental Psychology:

A developing child gradually goes through experiences and learns to form its own perspective while also taking and understanding the other person’s perspective. This promotes and is essential for social cognition and communication. Also, children learn about their culture and social norms through interactions with others, which shapes their perspectives of the world. Cultural differences in perspectives influence cognitive development and socialization process.

Also Read: Embracing Adulthood: A Perspective for Feeling Personality Types

Perspectivism and Gestalt Approach:

Perspectivism and gestalt psychology are two different concepts and arise from different philosophical and psychological traditions, but there are indeed some similarities between them. For example, both of them acknowledge the subjective nature of perception and interpretation.

Few points of their convergence are:
  • Both perspectivism and gestalt approach recognize that perception is subjective and influenced by individual experiences, beliefs, and biases.
  • Both posit multiplicity of perspectives. Perspectivism posits that there are multiple valid perspectives, and the gestalt approach acknowledges that individual might perceive same stimuli differently based on the proximity, similarity, and closure.
  • Both concepts imply that reality is complex and multifaceted. Perspectivism implies that reality cannot be fully captured by any single perspective. Gestalt psychology implies that perception involves integration of various elements into corrigible wholes.

Though gestalt psychology and perspectivism are distinct concepts, but these similarities highlight the importance of openness to diverse points of view and critical reflection on the process of perception and interpretation.

Also Read: New Research Shows How Loneliness Shapes Unique Perspectives

Subjective Nature of Human Perception

Perspectivism is a fundamental concept in philosophy and psychology, which highlights the subjective nature of human perception, cognition, and behavior. It provokes a thought-provoking perspective on truth, knowledge, and human existence. It invites individuals to engage critically with their own beliefs and interpretations.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals gain an insight into diverse aspects of human experience, social and cognitive processes by recognizing the role of individual perspectives. Embracing perspectivism encourages empathy, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of complexities of human behavior and mental health.

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