Every day we venture out into the world, relying on our brain to make split second decisions and carry out thorough cognitive processes to get us through the day in one piece. The miraculous jelly like organ that rests in our skull is a mind bogglingly complex asset we have been entrusted with. So the question arises, can such a powerful tool be confused, tricked or mislead? Well, it turns out it is possible, in fact, sneaky magicians and sly marketers heavily rely on this very idea to trick you into thinking or even acting the way they want you to.
In each moment we are continuously flooded by a barrage of information. Our mind instantaneously sorts this information into bins labeled important and “meh”. This filtration process aids us in creating a useful view of the world and helps us to direct our attention. But this also has its drawbacks. Sometimes we are literally unable to see things happening right in front of our eyes because of the selected filtering. This shows that you have tremendous blind spots and knowledge gaps in your memory and most of the time you may not even be aware of it.
For example, if I asked you to draw the exterior of your house without looking at it. Would you be able to draw it accurately? Chances are you may get quite a few things wrong even though your mind thinks it has a picture perfect image stored.
So why would something like this happen? It turns out that along with the fact that your brain misses a lot of things, it is still overly confident about the completeness of information it possesses and has a propensity to make wild guesses to fill in the blanks, however it can. This leads to some interesting phenomenons such as “optical illusions”.
Incredible street art by Edgar Mueller, it appears 3D when viewed from a particular vantage point.
Optical illusions happen when our mind attempts to fill in the details of something that it thinks it knows or has experienced.
I dabble a little in drawing myself (just feel like showing off a bit here :3 )
My sketch of Robert Downey Jr./Ironman 🙂
My friends say I’m pretty good at it. Whereas some of them wouldn’t be able to doodle if their life depended on it. I pondered as to why it is so? Is it because I see something they don’t?
A study showed that people who aren’t very good at drawing /sketching aren’t seeing the world as it really is. If your drawing skills are good, then it implies that you are making fairly accurate judgments with respect to apparent size, color, angles and other such aspects of the things you see. But the good news is that drawing is a skill that can be substantially improved with practice. So if you think you can’t or that it’s not worth a shot, think again.
The gaps in knowledge may not seem like such a big deal, but too much ignorance can lead you to have a delusional perspective of reality which would mean that the way you see the world will become less and less consistent with what is actually going on. So what this means is that your perception can be altered, your focus can be shifted. The important thing to consider now is whether you are going to be the one that will be in control of such significant changes or will someone else shape your views of the world for you? If you are not actively engaging in developing your own thinking process, your senses will deceive you.
Now, no matter how hard you try to make correct decisions there are some things that just cannot be controlled, our cognitive biases are one of these. Our brains are apparently hard wired to apprehend certain things inaccurately without any solid grounds. One cognitive bias is “the cheerleader effect”. I heard about this in an episode of How I Met Your Mother (hated the end, by the way. But that’s a topic to discuss later). I looked it up and it turns out that it’s a true anomaly, it states that people appear more attractive in a group rather than in isolation.
All this seems like a big ol laugh of how gullible we can be. It just goes to show how little we really know about ourselves and the world around us. The best we can do is limit our cockiness, because it could someday, unceremoniously come around to bite us when we least expect it.
So stay humble and keep an open mind. After all, Einstein once said..
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”