Sight: Your Best Guess

Do you think you see with your eyes? Think again. You see with your brain.

The experience of sight feels like the passive perception of the world around us—the observation of “fact” or “truth.” It is anything but. Your eyes send your brain a tremendous amount of information, up to two billion signals per second. But that’s where their role in sight ends. Your brain then processes that information, employing a miraculously sophisticated network of filters to predict what’s going on around you.

That’s right, predict. Not report, not observe. Sight is a guess.

The brain’s guesses are exceptionally good. And they are usually insulated from doubt or skepticism. As we say, seeing is believing; we experience the visual reality our mind’s produce, and we rarely have reason or opportunity to question that reality. It’s like hearing only one side of a story and having no basis to question it. We rarely question what we see.

But it’s worth questioning. As AsapSCIENCE demonstrates in this fantastic video, your mind “isn’t always telling you the truth.” Watch for yourself and see several “optical illusions” that “trick” the mind. You’ll see your brain make some good guesses  that turn out to be wrong!

It gets more complicated. Your brain uses more than data from your eyes to construct your experience of sight—to make its guesses about the world around you. Your conceptual understanding of the world, other knowledge, memories, opinions, emotions and far more can shape the visual experience your mind constructs. Yet the experience feels so “real”—like objective truth, like universal reality. That’s quite a contradiction, one worth thinking about.

It doesn’t end there. Sight is only one way we experience as objective truth the reality of our own making. Think about your self-limiting assumptions, for example. What have you told yourself you cannot do? Do you believe it? That’s worth thinking about, too.

How do you see it? I want to hear from you. Please join the discussion and share your favorite optical illusion or a story of a time your sight led you astray.

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Whether you’ve attended one of my speeches or consulting sessions, ordered Eyes Wide Open, seen my TED Talk, read one of my blog or social media posts, or you’re simply visiting this site, I want to know what you think. Make a point (big or small), share a story, offer criticism, ask a question—whatever suits you. I’d like to start an open conversation, so I’d appreciate your permission to share your submission in the future—anonymously, if you prefer. Even if I can’t share your thoughts with others, however, I still want to hear them, so please do tell me what’s on your mind. Thank you.

-Isaac Lidsky


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