Friends, I have been happily engrossed with books about the brain lately, and this post is the first in a series inspired by my recent reading. One of the very coolest things about being human, to me, is that we are smart enough to understand how our own brains work and then use that knowledge to change how we do things. It astounds me to even think of it! In upcoming posts, we’ll be looking at the different parts of the brain and how we can harness each to improve our life experience.
Today, our topic is perception. Check out the image below:
Does it seem like the horizontal lines in the middle bend? They don’t; it’s an optical illusion. I read an article online by Paul Grobstein, entitled, “Making Sense of the World (and Oneself)” (serendip.brynmawr.edu) about our senses and perception. The entire article is fascinating, but today I only want to talk about one point he made, “senses are a way not of knowing what’s out there but of making informed guesses about it.” Basically, each of our senses is formulated in the brain. So what you see may literally be different than what I see, even if the scene we witness is the same. The “seeing” happens in our brains.
Going back to the illusion above – it is a simple trick of perception, most people reading this will probably perceive it in the same way. However, to a large extent, this is a purely cultural illusion. You are likely looking at this image in a focused way. Instead, try looking at it with “soft eyes” – making all of this page visually equal and notice how the image looks. It’s a little challenging to do that and read at the same time, so take a break now and try it. To me, it becomes instantly obvious that the lines don’t curve.
So…what else in your life is like this? Where else might you be looking at something and perceiving it in a distorted way? What mental clutter or habits might be causing a perception that is not serving you? Can you think of a way to use “soft eyes” on a situation to see it more clearly?
Inquiring minds want to know! Leave a comment with your perception check for the week!