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AndyMittelman's picture

I am very surprised by how

I am very surprised by how much of our perception is influenced by the unconscious factors we discussed this week. The McGurk Effect, in particular, demonstrated to me just how much of what I am seeing I am not actually “seeing.” As we discussed, when you see something it is actually the aggregation of many point sources of light. Then, our brain is taking in a series of snapshots and tying them together subconsciously. So this makes me wonder how this process actually occurs. If you imagined this from the perspective of a computer (or a camera for that matter), you would have to be continuously taking in images, sorting them based on where you had aimed the camera (where our eyes were looking), and then storing them in a short term memory. Then, you would have to be accessing this data and continually updating it, deleting the old memories and replacing them with new ones. Imagine you pan the camera around the room and then hold it still in one direction. The brain has to know to keep the older images of the surrounding area because it has not updated those views during the immobile period.

So imagine you’re in a very dynamic environment (like looking out the side window of a train). How does your brain process an entire frame of constantly changing image? In that situation, you can’t really focus on much for very long, but still you are able to perceive the intricate details of the landscape.

Our discussion made me think about those clocks that move a wand back and forth very quickly to display an image. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, check out They must work because our brain takes the images and stitches them together. If we didn’t normally store images and then reference it, we would just see single LED lights. Instead, we are able to stitch together a comprehensible image.

We don’t actually know what’s really going on in the world around us. Instead, we just perceive whatever our brain has constructed for us. Hence, there are really two ways that we could be affect what you see. First you could put on sunglasses, or look through a colored glass pane…this would affect what you see. But maybe you could also alter the way that your brain stitches together the images. If this alteration happened subconsciously (or without your awareness), is there any way you would know? Does this have anything to do with the way that drugs may affect our perception of the world? Imagine you unwittingly took a pill that caused hallucinations but didn’t affect consciousness. You wouldn’t know that you were hallucinating. If you’re hallucinating, your eyes are still inputting the same point sources of light. Despite this, you may actually see things that don’t exist. Hence, those hallucinations must be occurring in the processing of the visual input. Our brain might take in point source information from a lamp and see a monkey. I am curious to learn more about how that connection is made.

    Also, check out this video on synesthesia. He perceives numbers as having a sensory component!



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