Neuro-Perception -Waht?

Posted by on Jan 2, 2011 in Blog, Papers | No Comments

The brain serves as a good example of the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of an effect arises from 20% of the issue surrounding it; the 20% mass of brain tissue we have controls the reactions and perceptions of the other 80% of our being (except the heart but who is complaining). The field of Neuropsychology focuses on the issues and workings of the brain, namely, how people think, make decisions and behave. The studies reported in this field put N.R Hanson right when he states that there is “More to seeing that meets the eyeball”(Chalmers, n.d.). Depending on how we have acquired our knowledge, whether through empiricism, constructivism or rationalism, the things we see bubble through a never-ending web of self-critiques, personal judgements and screens that our brain has put up before reaching our minds and taking a firm grasp on our lives. In light of this, a victim of war will treat toy guns as death itself while a child will see it as a plaything and a patient of neuropsychological disorders will behave differently from healthy people.

Chalmers, in his book, stressed the eminence of the brain’s “screen” or filter through his discussions on illusions and how subjective we are to the brain’s interpretation of what we see or experience. A personal experience of Chalmer’s illusions that I have seen, is the 3D cube example which is also brought to mind by James Danckert’s mention of the binocular rivalry (a phenomenon where the viewer’s perception of the image keeps alternating). When I draw a 3D cube and look at it immediately and then again, after an extended period of time, the face seems to change or move. I don’t have brain damage, at least I don’t think I do, and yet why do I perceive things differently. Back to the talk of constructivism, life experiences also play a huge part in a person’s perception “filter”. One could see a father and son’s outing to the beach as a good example of this. The child would be longing to swim in the ocean (as long as there is no innate fear of the sea by rationalism) whereas the father, who through constructivism knows the dangers of the oceans will hold the child back from the potentially dangerous sea waters. The case of past emotional trauma, for example, causing different behavioural patterns is evidence that there exists some sort of “filter” in our brain that develops from personal experiences. At times, the behaviour of a perfectly sound person, due to what these brain “filters”, can mimic that of someone with neuropsychological disorders to our amazement.

On another note, an interesting internet meme, something which is not necessarily true and posted on the internet, that I came across is how people can still read words when the middle letters are jumbled or transposed. Cna yuo sitll raed tihs? This phenomenon, I thought, was fascinating in revealing the power of our brain, which is able to interpret the sentence as a whole even when it is jumbled. Though this phenomenon of transposition of words started as a meme, this has shed some light to the mysteries of the brain and its “screen” or “filter”. In some cases, reading jumbled letters could be faster than reading normal words in some people. (Rayner et al, n.d.). It is somewhat safe to say that, having seen the English words so much, our brain has devised one of these “screens” that does not see words as jumbled as they are presented anymore.

People who are affected by neuropsychological disorders and people who don’t could still exhibit the same effects by either chance certain experiences which trigger the formation of these brain filters that map external influences, such as things we see, to certain behavioural outcomes irrespective of who we are and by phenomena which we still do not understand. We still have a lot to learn about the brain and how it works. Our perception of the brain can’t ever be complete, but all we can do is gain knowledge a little at a time hoping that eventually our understanding would be sufficient to anticipate more than just what our brain filters to us; maybe we can elude the pareto principle of the mind.

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