1. The Gates of Perception

Imagine having the ability to transfer a thought inside your head to someone else so that that person has exactly the same understanding you have. This is the goal of most communication.

Unfortunately, the person receiving information rarely receives everything the person sending information intended. When communication succeeds, most often, it succeeds only partially.

Perceptual Filters

Many factors filter the transfer of information, such as:

  • Languages
  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Knowledge
  • Interests
  • Environment
  • Media Preferences

Communication succeeds quickly and efficiently when the sender and receiver share many of these. You have so much in common that little is filtered out.

Now assume the sender and receiver share none of these attributes. To some degree, the gateways of communication close. Communication suffers. For example:

  • Language – If two people do not share a common language, communication will be difficult at best.
  • Values – If an honest person feels that another party in a negotiation is being dishonest, negotiations will break down.
  • Beliefs – If I believe in free markets and you believe in government regulation, you will dismiss much of what I say regarding politics.
  • Knowledge – If you know statistics and I do not, citing the coefficient of correlation will cause my eyes to glaze over.
  • Interests – If you enjoy public policy debates and my favorite topic is basketball, we will have little to discuss.
  • Environment – If we come from different cities, I may not even be able to watch your television channels or read your newspapers.
  • Media – If we prefer different mediums, our information may be shaped in ways that cause us to disagree.

Given all these differences, our communication has little chance of success. The odds are stacked against us.

For generations, psychologists have studied the first six of these filters. They have paid relatively little attention to the seventh – how the mediums that transmit information skew perceptions and affect attitudes.

Neither have businesses paid much attention to the way mediums color information. Few have studied how:

  • Differences between mediums shape our views of the world
  • Differences in medium preferences shape our decisions

The next pages contain observations gleaned from a 45-year career in the communications industry that may shed some light on these issues. I also suggest a practical model, based on the principle of parallax, that explains how media preferences can affect communication, individual decisions and society as a whole.

I do not pretend to be an academician or a researcher, just an advertising and marketing communications professional who frequently asks, “Why?” Here, I present a theory that explains how media affect almost everything in life by the way they influence and shape decisions.

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