Distort, Delete & Generalise

The Brain’s 3 Main Filters – Distortion, Deletion & Generalisation

There are many forces that influence our behaviour and how we perceive and interact with reality. One of the ways we can better understand our behaviour in order to achieve our goals and the life we desire is by becoming aware of the brain’s three main filters.

A Product Of Evolution

At every moment of every day, your brain is constantly being flooded with millions of bits of information.

In order to prevent sensory overload and consequently a breakdown in functionality, humans evolved psychological mechanisms that pushed less (though still important) information to the peripheries of our conscious awareness so that we could focus on what was most important.

From an evolutionary perspective, these mechanisms enhanced our survival.

The Brain’s 3 Main Filters

We each create our own unique Model Of The World based on our experiences. Because the brain can only pay attention to a limited amount of information at any given moment, our experiences run through a set of internal filters. The three main filters are distortion, deletion and generalisation.

While these filters prevent us from being overwhelmed and help us make sense of the world, they can limit our experiences. However, once we become aware of them, we can determine what information we pay attention to. Below we’ll unpack each of the three filters.

  • Distortion

Distortion occurs when we misrepresent our experiences compared to what they actually are. We don’t take in the objective facts of our experiences, rather instead, we take in our subjective interpretations of our experiences. In other words, we paint our experiences based on individual aspects or moments of our experiences rather than the whole of the experiences themselves.

  • Deletion

Deletion occurs when we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of our experiences while ignoring others. Our conscious mind can only handle roughly between 5 and 9 pieces of information at any given moment. Therefore, deletion prevents us from being overwhelmed.

What we focus on determines what information our brain allows through – everything else is deleted from our awareness.

For example, if we focus on what is wrong in our lives, the brain will create a lens through which we will only see everything that is wrong. However, if we focus on what is right, the brain will create a lens through which we will see everything that we can be grateful for.

  • Generalisation

Generalisation occurs when we selectively take one aspect of our experience and apply it to a multitude or all other experiences. It is why we draw broad conclusions based on one or two experiences.

Generalisation allows us to recognise patterns from our past experiences so we can better predict the future. For example, if someone ate some almond nuts and suffered a reaction, they may assume that they are allergic to all nuts. However, generalisations are not always accurate – just because your two previous bosses were mean to you, it does not mean all bosses are mean.

How Your Brain’s Filters Create Your Reality

We all distort, delete and generalise information differently based on our language, beliefs, values, memories, decisions, attitudes and meta programs. This then influences our internal representation of our experiences and our perception of the world.

We know that how we think determines how we feel, how we feel determines what we do and what we do, ultimately, determines our destiny. Therefore, if we use these filters effectively, we can shift our internal reality and transform our destiny.

Summary

Our brain uses filters to code information in order for us to make sense of the world – these filters are, distortion, deletion and generalisation. While these ‘mental shortcuts’ prevent information overload and help us analyse information quicker, they also limit out perception.

By first becoming aware of these filters and then understanding how they influence our behaviour, we can use them in a way that serves us and empowers us.

Comments

  1. Wow, Chris! Thank you for that great explanation. Sometimes too much info can be a bit intimidating for me and so I appreciate the short, easy to grasp and just as informative style. This concept explains so well how two people living very similar lives can have completely different emotions about the quality of their lives.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Edwag. One of my goals when writing is to break things down to their simplest form and explain them in a way that is easy to digest and assimilate, so I appreciate the kind words. & yes, I agree.

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