What reality are you creating for yourself?

There’s a story from the mid-20th century of an anthropologist studying pygmies in a jungle of Africa. He took one pygmy on a trip to the savanna. The pygmy had never been out of his jungle. He saw a herd of willdabeast in the distance and asked the anthropologist what type of insects they were – he had no practical frame of experience for understanding such distances. Our cultural or life experience can frame perception . A person who grows up in the plains will judge distances better but will misjudge the height of buildings and trees when compared to someone who grew up in woodlands.

What we perceive is a construct, in a very real sense, our minds create reality. For example, perspective is a illusion that we all accept on some level, even though we know that objects in the distance are not smaller (see blog cover photo).

Isaac Lidsky’s Ted Talk looks at how important vision is to us, how it constructs our sense of reality, an in his case, how it can be a sort of trap if you let it. His journey is about losing his site, and coming to the realization that he summed up in a statement by Helen Keller, “the only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

Some interesting points from the talk about perception:

  • Hearing requires 2 – 3% of the brain’s processing capacity
  • Touch uses approximately 8%  of the brain’s capacity
  • The visual cortex takes up about 30 % of the brain’s capacity and processes as many as two billion pieces of information each second

But Lidsky explains that all information references “your conceptual understanding of the world” based on the context of your life, “knowledge, your memories, opinions, emotions,” etc. One example he gives …

“… what you see impacts how you feel, and the way you feel can literally change what you see … a hill appears steeper if you’ve just exercised, and a landmark appears farther away if you’re wearing a heavy backpack.”

Crash Course provides another overview of how perception comes together in the brain in Perceiving is Believing

Web Development Application
No direct application but it is helpful to know how demanding the visual cortex is. It also may be helpful to think about cultural (or emotional) frame of references when developing images and content for a Web page.

Related TEDTalk: Isaac Lidsky TED Talk

Post Script

TEDTalk by Anil Seth, "Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality"
According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it "reality."

One interesting point of the Ted Talk is a section on introception – stimuli produced within an organism, especially in the gut and other internal organs.
Anil Seth TED Talk