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Fun Facts about Perception: Is your brain playing tricks on you?

Fun Facts about Perception:
Is Your Brain Playing Tricks on You?

Figure 1 (Source: Giphy)

Perceptions are built from sensations. In the generic sense of the term, perception refers to the use of our five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) to gather sensory information for organization, interpretation and experiences. Perception aids in making sense by giving meaning to everything and anything in and around us. Without perceptual abilities, we would have sensed entities as independent blocks instead of their meaningful forms.

Have you ever wondered how humans perceive the world? How often do you take your perceptual abilities for granted? Imagine hearing your mom calling your name from afar, the hearing receptors would only detect the sound but the perception allows you to recognize your mom’s voice straight away. This is the example of how perception can take place, even without conscious awareness.

Figure 2 (Source: Giphy)

    

     “Perception is the process of becoming aware of situations, 

     of adding meaningful associations to sensations.” 

 

     – B. V. H. Gilmer

Throughout the years, perception has always been an interesting topic for research. Believe it or not, our brain has been playing tricks on us on a daily basis. Wondering how? Let’s delve deeper into some interesting facts about perception, shall we? 

#1 Our eyes can't be trusted!

Look at the picture below. Are the strawberries red?

Figure 3a (Source: Twitter @AkiyoshiKitaoka)

Now use your hand to cover the strawberries and look closely at the bar below. Is the bar red in color?

Figure 3b (Source: Twitter @_tim_hutton_ )

The color red has actually been removed completely from the picture. Yet why do we still see red strawberries? This is due to the fact that our thoughts, knowledge and past experiences play key roles in interpreting sensations. In this case, our brain is smart enough to know that the color of the object is more useful than the color of the light source in determining the actual color. Since our mind recognizes that strawberries are supposed to be red, we tend to ignore other unnecessary information (i.e., the light source that caused the change in color). Our brain will automatically color-correct the gray and green pixels to be red. Therefore, we are still able to perceive the strawberries in the picture as what they normally are. 

#2 The most effective cloaking device? Our brain.

 Check out the video below.

 

Did you notice the person in the gorilla suit? Did you manage to see the curtain changing color or someone leaving the game? If you are totally absorbed in counting the number of times the ball is being passed and overlooked other details, you are not the only one! Imagine a time when you are so focused on a task that the world around you seems to disappear. This phenomenon is called selective attention. As we are constantly being bombarded by neural input from our surroundings, it is important for our brain to be able to filter out irrelevant information to keep us from feeling overwhelmed.  

“This form of invisibility depends not on the limits of the eye, but on the limits of the mind.”  – Daniel J. Simons  

#3 Your brain sees even when your eyes don’t.

Figure 4 Gestalt Laws (Source: Verywell / JR Bee)

Gestalt Psychologists suggested that our brain has the amazing ability to combine our sensory input and perceive them as a wholesome entity even though they are gathered in “bits and pieces”. For example, look at the picture below. 

Figure 5 Law of Closure (Source: Interaction Design Foundation)

Do you see three shapes or non-continuation lines? Most people will probably see shapes because our brain tends to fill in missing gaps and take shortcuts in order to perceive meaningful and complete images.  

#4 Contradicting senses confuse our brain.

Figure 6 Mind-bending room (Source: Pinterest)

 

 

Imagine walking into a room like the one in the picture. Are the walls bent? Does the floor rise? Is the ceiling curved? Of course not! It simply comes from painting the grid pattern in such a way that straight planes appear to curve in order to create the illusion. Although we know that the room is empty and stable, our brain might be tricked since our eyes do not perceive the shapes to be even. Hence, it is possible that this conflicting sensory information causes a wave of sickness such as dizziness or nausea.  

#5 Everyone is unique!

Figure 7 Blind men and the elephant (Source: Patheos)

 

 

 

Do you know why people have different tastes in food, music, art, clothes, etc.? This is because perceptions vary differently for each person, as a result, the meanings people assigned to what they perceive are different as well. Basically, perception is as distinctive as our individual personalities. Our interpretations often vary according to a number of factors. Thus, perception is seen to be very powerful and influential in directing our thoughts and actions so as to guide who we are. 

References

Behera, S. (2014, June). Human perception and its fascinating facts. Online-Therapy.com. Retrieved from https://www.online-therapy.com/blog/human-perception-fascinating-facts/

Coren, S. (2003). Sensation and perception. Handbook of psychology. pp. 85-108. Retrieved from https://psikologi.unimudasorong.ac.id/app/upload/file/handbook-of-psychology.pdf#page=106

Coren, S., & Girgus, J. S. (1980). Principles of perceptual organization and spatial distortion: the gestalt illusions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance6(3), 404-412. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stanley_Coren/publication/16748062_Principles_of_perceptual_organization_and_spatial_distortion_The_gestalt_illusions/links/0c960537a62a8d3ce5000000/Principles-of-perceptual-organization-and-spatial-distortion-The-gestalt-illusions.pdf

De Graaf, B., Bles, W., & Bos, J. E. (1998). Roll motion stimuli: sensory conflict, perceptual weighting and motion sickness. Brain Research Bulletin, 47(5), 489-495. doi: 10.1016/S0361-9230(98)00116-6

Goldstein, E. B. (2009). Constancy. In E. B. Goldstein (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Perception. pp. 309-313. Retrieved from https://books.google.com.my/books?id=Y4TOEN4f5ZMC&pg=PA309&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Mangun, G. R. (1995). Neural mechanisms of visual selective attention. Psychophysiology, 32(1), 4-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1995.tb03400.x

Simons, D. J. (2012, September). But did you see the gorilla? The problem with inattentional blindness. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/but-did-you-see-the-gorilla-the-problem-with-inattentional-blindness-17339778/

Wagemans, J., Elder, J. H., Kubovy, M., Palmer, S. E., Peterson, M. A., Singh, M., & von der Heydt, R. (2012). A century of Gestalt psychology in visual perception: I. Perceptual grouping and figure–ground organization. Psychological Bulletin, 138(6), 1172–1217. doi: 10.1037/a0029333

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Valerie interns at Be❦Live in Psychology after graduating from HELP University with a Bachelor of Psychology. Having a passion for helping those in need, she wishes to pursue her Master's Degree in clinical psychology as her studies in HELP have sparked her interest in the field.

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