April PsychNotes • Strange Perceptions

April 1, 2016 by Shawn Smith

psychedelicHere’s something to ponder. None of us know what’s happening right now because everything we see and hear has already occurred. It takes time for light and sound to reach us, plus more time to process information once it arrives. By the time we’re aware of what’s happening, it’s already history. Perception is tricky business. Here’s more trickiness…

1. Do We See Reality as It Is? (Answer: Highly Unlikely)
Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman says our perception of the physical world bears limited resemblance to reality—but that’s a good thing. “Not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage…. Perception is designed to hide the real world.” (Video)

2. False Memories: They’re Not Just for Courtrooms Anymore
Human memory isn’t a thing like dots on a hard drive. It is an act of reconstructing ideas and events. Plenty of errors can creep in when we’re rebuilding the past. “It’s such a terrifying but beautiful notion that every day you wake up with a slightly different personal past.”

3. How You Hear With Your Eyes
If I haven’t made you question your senses yet, this article should do the trick. When senses are in conflict—for example, when what you see and hear don’t match—the mind will reconcile by prioritizing one sense over the other, altering what we perceive. (Video)

4. Does Your Red Look the Same as Mine?
Color doesn’t exist in the real world. Our brains construct color by converting a segment of the electromagnetic spectrum. That means we can never really know if your perception of color is the same as someone else’s. On a related matter, this software offers a glimpse of other animals’ color perception. (Video)

5. Why We Hallucinate
Humans are the only animals that suffer from schizophrenia. Maybe that’s because human information processing is so complex that it necessarily creates complex errors. Hallucinations are one such complex perceptual error, possibly arising from “a shift in information processing favoring prior knowledge over incoming sensory evidence.” (Sometimes hallucinations are simply the result of connectivity changes in the brain caused by psychedelic drugs.)

Finally, getting back to the original thought, here’s more clinical evidence that what you perceive is already ancient history. Happy April Fool’s Day! See you in May.