08 July 2011

Brains Are Tricky Business

I'm a big fan of the leaky, insubstantial, and unreliable aspects of our experience. As someone who has spent a lot of time working on opening up my perceptions (mostly via meditation), I am all too familiar with the idea that our minds are shaped by what we believe we should be seeing. We constantly discard evidence of the senses that doesn't square with consensus, culturally approved reality. Once you begin open the perceptions, things get really interesting, really fast.

Many people are skeptical of the idea that observation, that time-honoured tool of the scientist, is not all that reliable. But the brain stumbles on certain forms of sensory input. Some things we cannot perceive accurately, no matter how hard we try.

I give you the McGurk Effect. (If you close your eyes, you'll hear "ba" again.)


Anonymous said...

Wow. That just messed with my mind! That's absolutely crazy. When I watched him say pretend to say "fa" my ears wouldn't understand it as "ba" anymore. Thanks for sharing! :)

Deborah Walker said...

That's mad. Who'd have thought that visuality would overwrite a speech. We are a crazy species. I love it.

Unknown said...

that was cool!

yet another reason why phonetic spelling never worked for me. Particularly when I was younger, I "misheard" words all the time. I still can't hear the difference between how many people say soft a and e sounds.

Arlee Bird said...

Then there's the McMom effect. Sometimes no matter what I say, my mom will hear what she wants to hear. A lot of people do that and I guess I'm guilty as well.

Tossing It Out

Autumn Shelley said...

Oh that is BRILLIANT!!! I love it! Scary how programmed we are, isn't it? And you're right, as long as I closed my eyes, my ears interpreted the sound correctly but just the subtle movement of lips to teeth and my brain heard something completely different. Wonder what else I'm mis-interpreting?

Misha Gerrick said...

That is so interesting!

Sometimes, I get frustrated because people put so much focus on what they see. They can miss some seriously important stuff.