Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Seeing is Believing????



I had gone to an amazing magic show called 'The Illusionists', sitting there watching them I thought when people say 'seeing is believing' they are talking a lot of crap. Because seeing can be quite misleading, what we think we are seeing can actually be a pack of lies and sensory information can be erroneous. Which got me to think about illusions and reality.

It's our brain that decides and interprets what we perceive. We actually see with our brains and not our eyes. What fascinates me is the behavior of the brain when presented with two realities... when an object has more than one picture the brain decides what it will perceive, shifting between the two realities, but sometimes that only happens when it is given the cue that there are two pictures.

Cognitive “illusions” rely on our knowledge about the world but we have conscious control over them (we can generally reverse the perception at will). When the brain deals with extra information it makes a choice of what we will see first and then when we are told there is another picture it recomputes so we can see that, like in the Rubens Vase. As soon as we know that there is another picture the perspective keeps shifting

I kept wondering what would happen if we were to show the vase to a person who doesn't know that there can be another picture, how long would it take them to perceive the other image, would they even perceive it at all. So I made my five year old look at the picture she saw the vase and I had to point out that there were also two women looking at each other before she saw it.

 I guess that's why the pursuit of knowledge and constant broadening of our experience is so essential because until we are made to realize there can be more than one reality we don't see it.


Sometimes we are prisoners of habit, programmed to behave a certain way and in most situations that unconscious or primitive response takes over and and we interpret what we see because of memory and old habits.


If we are told to read out the color of the text very fast, we can't manage, we just read the word instead.  The two parts of the brains are warring with each other. Its only when we slow down and consciously decide to be mindful can we accomplish this task.

 So does that mean that everything I perceive, see, hear, taste, touch and smell is just a reconstruction from sensory data? What I perceive as the world is actually just an idea in my head?

 And what of realities we can't perceive because our physical senses don't compute the sensory data? lets think of animals that can hear better than us - because we can't hear particular sound waves, have never experienced them we don't have a mental idea of them and hence we don't perceive, but that doesn't mean they don't exist...

 If there are no innate truths, and all truths come to us through our senses; what if those very senses were prone to be fallibility, then where do we stand? If truths are dependent on our senses than is a color blind person giving testimony to seeing something green which was in fact red be called a liar?

Our truths are individual to us and can only be known to us through the context of our own perception.  It is our own unique framework that determines how we understand and shape certain contexts and perspectives. Where we grew up, our culture our history, language all determine our reality. Everything we see is processed, analyzed, compared and seen through the lens of not only what is evident in front of us but all our past experiences. Our experiences give shape and form to our perceptions and sense of reality. So if I was born into a different religion and had a different truth would not my entire reality be very different?

So is our knowledge of the world, prisoner to our very human perspective? And even if the world we live is real, are we imprisoned in the illusions fed to us by our senses?

PS: On a totally different note and an update to my last post...a few days back I had a meltdown and I yelled so didn't make it for a week :( also didn't go for my anger management workshop as was really busy. But as a good friend pointed before managing anything one must find out where it is coming from and that is a work in progress.

17 comments:

hannah kureshi said...

in deep thought now!!

Amber Azam said...

Glad to know... i have too have been mulling over it for more than a week and fi
nally sat down to write about it today

Amel said...

Food for thought. There are many occasions where I know that my own lenses for the world have skewed my perception on something. In some cases this can result in a conflict because I feel that what I see isn't wrong, whereas another person sees it differently and I know that person isn't wrong, either, but sometimes both parties end up feeling "hurt" because of the clashes. In other cases, both parties manage to learn the other person's POV and thus they both gain something from the different POVs.

P.S. GOOD LUCK for the work in progress!!! :-)

Amber Azam said...

Thanks Amel - back to trying again.

candoor said...

Wise words... There is a new-ish TV show called Through the Wormhole that amuses me as some episodes touch on the perspective you relate (and I largely agree with) in this post.

Illusions and reality are the same, depending on perspective. Everything is the illusion of perception, perspective, and individual understanding within one's own mind. As a social species, we humans usually feel more comfortable to share agreement and lose site of the fact that we are still separate individuals determining our own reality based on our own unique interpretation of our own distinct point of view.

Once upon a time most humans looked up at the sky and saw the sun and stars all rotating around the Earth. Eyes perceived the obvious site, lights passing from one side of the sky to the other horizon and then disappearing until they came back "around" in virtually the same spot on the "rising" horizon.

We now look up at the sky and see the same visual cues, but we perceive different actual motions. We understand the rotation of the Earth provides the illusion of centricity and in actuality, we are moving through space along with the sun and stars in a spiral around a galactic center and all part of a galaxy moving away from a universal center and wait - is that truly the motion of the universe or shall we find even more perspective as we learn more?... perhaps multiple universes in sheets, or planes, or membranes... the threads (strings?) of understanding our perceptions may be infinite and we may never actually see the whole picture.

Still, we gaze up at the sky and see what eyes have seen for many millions of years. What did the dinosaurs perceive when they looked up, after all? :)

The Rubens Vase - It is interesting to place a cardboard or opaque paper on the right or left side of the vertical centerline of the vase and then the face tends to jump out at most people.

I love your phrasing as you explore our individual views - we are, in truth, prisoners of perspective... many choose to live in a solitary cage, while others choose to expand their perspective to accept others. Personally, I strive to live in the most expansive cage possible, that is, to accept as many different perspectives with equal validity, at least initially, and incorporate as many into my own as i am able. Still, this is my perspective in the end, and I am as much a prisoner of my multiple perspectives as anyone is who closes their mind to their perspective alone. I just like the idea of an ever expanding welcoming perspective better than a fixed solitary perspective.

And to the colors... Can you connect the process of reading the colors to the process that results in your yelling?... I suggest the essence, the answer, the key to gaining control of the meltdown is the same - slowing down. Perhaps the thoughts and emotions that become an outburst of yelling are simply going by too fast for your brain to perceive them all and the result is more than one part of your brain is trying to convey your message. You feel at a loss to communicate clearly, so you yell as if yelling will clarify your intended message.

But as you wisely relate in regard to reading the colors, it is not increasing energy, volume, or speed that allows us to read the words in deference to the color of the words, it is the slowing down of our mind that allows us to perceive more accurately and gain control of our thought processes so we can communicate our senses and perspective more clearly.

Something to consider, perhaps, as you find yourself busy and reaching the point of yelling? :)

Amber Azam said...

@ Candoor: thank you for that amazing new perspective on yelling now that you have made me aware each time I yell my mind will shift to what you said pretty much like once you know that there are two pictures in one image your mind shifts to see the other.
I too like amassing as many perspectives as possible to make the cage larger. That's why I love blogging you get to read and understand so much more and as knowledge increases so do ones points of view...

Freelance Thinker said...

You are a very profound thinker. I am a freelance thinker who enjoys your blog.

Amber Azam said...

@ freelance Thinker: Thanks

Flippy said...

Yes, our senses can fail us, which is why the best tool we have to know reality is the scientific method, and specially through peer review. That way, it's not just our perception, but we understand reality through the perception of everybody. While a person's senses might fail because of a certain reason, it's highly unlikely that the senses of everyone will fail in the same way all the time.

Amber Azam said...

Hi flippy i subscribed to your magazine 'unhinged' its pretty interesting. Thanks for stopping by :)

Gold Poovan Devasagayam said...

Interesting perceptive Amber. Thanks for sharing the post. I've also tweeted the post for you. :-)

Poovan

Punam Parab said...

Hi Amber,

This is a very interesting article and I liked the little 'colour reading exercise' that you had incorporated in the same article.
Keep up the good work!!!

Storytellerontheroad said...

As you say Amber, our life is full of illusions and it is up to us to try to get through them, to see through them. I really enjoyed your article.
http://storytellerontheroad.wordpress.com/

Storytellerontheroad said...

As you say Amber, our life is full of illusions and it is up to us to try to get through them, to see through them. I really enjoyed your article.
http://storytellerontheroad.wordpress.com/

Personal Trainer Huntington Beach CA said...

Food for thought. There are many occasions where I know that my own lenses for the world have skewed my perception on something. In my cases this can result in a conflict because I feel that what I see isn't wrong, whereas another person sees it differently and I know that person isn't wrong, either, but sometimes both parties end up feeling "hurt" because of the clashes.

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Mariam Magsi said...

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