Is perception reality? …really?

I mentioned in the prior post how John Medina’s Brain Rules helped me get my brain in the right frame of mind to connect with It’s all invented in the Zanders’ book. It’s not exactly the point that the Zanders’ were getting at, but the issue of visual perception is really fascinating.

Visual illusion of colors.

Squares A & B are the same color!

There are many books, articles and video available all talking about visual perception. A  fun corner of that science is the area of visual illusion and what they can tell us about how our brains actually work.

There are many great sites on the ‘net full of material like this, search for “visual illusion.”

There are also several excellent TED talks on the topic of visual perception and visual illusions. Some of them that I like are:

I find the final illusion that Lotto does simply mind-blowing. Right in front of our eyes, he constructs an illusion, describing exactly how it works and both what we expect to see and what we will actually see. He knows that we’ll see the illusion regardless of what we’ve observed or been told, because he knows we can’t help it. He also has a great comment:

The brain didn’t actually evolve to see the world the way that it is, no it can’t, instead it evolved to show it to us in a way that is useful…

Stylized image of the brain. Our brains have evolved in specific ways to deal with the fact that our senses can send more information per second into the brain than it actually has the ability to deal with.  It has to prioritize what to process and what it ignore.

We’re actually pretty darn good at it–after all, we survived in a very hostile world with few natural defenses, except that marvelous brain.

But the shortcuts we’ve developed can lead to strange things like visual illusions. It can, in the modern world, also lead to traffic accidents where one driver will swear he didn’t see the other car–and be right.

John Medina’s Brain Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses, covers some of this and is the specific piece of his book that really helped get over my initial obstacle with Art of Possibility. Neuroscience tells us that we literally don’t know what’s real around us–we can only know what our brain builds as the picture it has decided we need. In other words, our brains invent this stuff we call reality–our senses can be fooled.

As a kind of extension of that idea, the Zanders’ point out, our perception of reality is not only just an invented-by-the-brain picture, it’s also emotional–how we feel about what we perceive. Indeed, “It’s all invented” and if we want, we can take charge of it, or at least how we react what we perceive.

Illusions are fascinating things created by our amazing brains. Equally amazing is the realization that if we choose to live in the world of possibility, those perceptions don’t have to control us, we can choose how we react to what we perceive and in doing so, we create a new reality for ourselves.

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About Dick Knisely

Science-guy, engineer, father, grandfather, husband -- yeah, I'm all of those things. I author this blog to share things I care about and you might care about, too. I hope you do and that you'll join in to share things you care about.
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One Response to Is perception reality? …really?

  1. Pingback: A Simple Change In Perception Goes A Long Way

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