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The Perception of Veracity

Konst #2: August 12 – September 12, 2013

The Perception of Veracity

“I saw it with my own eyes”… people say and consider it one of the most if not the most reliable source of information. What most people don’t know however, is that human perception is not flawless. Human brain makes mistakes, tries to correct them, fills in blanks and perfects the picture without us even being aware of it.

Human brain for example is capable of filling in the blind spots (the spot on human retina where blood vessels are located in front of the optic nerve), even if the background of the scenery is rather complex (Ramachandran, 1992). Otherwise we would all walk around with large black empty spots in the middle of our visual fields.

Sometimes a damage to the brain or a dysfunction of a specific area of a brain reveals aspects of its hidden functions. Vilayanur Ramachandran has described a patient who after particular injury to his brain started seeing monkeys everywhere. Not just randomly floating or “ghost-like” monkeys but entirely real, three-dimensional animals in perfectly intact and integrated situations where the laws of physics were respected.  The monkeys where sitting on peoples shoulders, on desks and benches, climbing up the trees and curtain hangers. Just nobody else except for the abovementioned patient seemed to notice them (Blakeslee & Ramachandran, 2005).

John Nash had an imaginary companion for years before he realized that the person he considered his best friend just wasn’t real. The best friend wasn’t real despite the fact that in Johns mind they had shared a room in college and kept close contact after university. John Nash had schizophrenia (Nasar, 1998).

There are many more examples like that which cast light on how the brain might work and process perceived information. It is capable of filling in blanks and integrating details as complex as living moving human beings with different personalities into our perceptual reality.

So… every time we look around and perceive a person, an object, a room or any other type of space, how do we know which details are real and which are not? How does a brain decide which cues in a complexion  are trustworthy and which are not? What if there’s a conflict between several trustworthy groups of cues like size and perspective? Is that the moment when experience, social, emotional, philosophical and religious views interfere and start playing a part in the formula of interpretation?

 

Blakeslee, S. & Ramachandran, V.S. (2005).  Phantoms in the brain. Human nature and the architecture of the mind. London: Harper Perennial

Nasar, S. (1998). A beautiful mind: A biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr.,  winner of the Nobel prize economics 1994. USA: Simon & Schuster.

Ramachandran, V.S. (1992). Blind spots. Sci Am, 266: 85-91