My brain hurts. Again. That’s what comes of reading articles on how the, um, brain works.
The brain automatically smoothes our visual input over time.
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? But try it the way the article’s title says it.
Everything We See Is a Mash-up
of the Brain’s Last 15 Seconds of Visual Information
A mash-up? A stuck-together-collage of visual inputs like those dance videos on YouTube? Yup.
Instead of analysing every single visual snapshot,
we perceive in a given moment
an average of what we saw in the past 15 seconds.
Well, why the heck would our brains do that?
So, by pulling together objects
to appear more similar to each other,
our brain tricks us into perceiving a stable environment.
Stable, good; jerky, bad? I guess so.
If our brains were always updating in real time,
the world would feel like a chaotic place
with constant fluctuations in light, shadow and movement.
We would feel like we were hallucinating all the time.
But is this speculation or can they, you know, prove it? Well, they have some test results that support this idea.
. . . we recruited hundreds of participants and asked them to view close-ups of faces morphing chronologically in age in 30-second timelapse videos. When asked to tell the age of the face at the very end of the video, the participants almost consistently reported the age of the face that was presented 15 seconds before. (emphasis added)
OK, a few thoughts occur.
First, if this visual thing is true, to other people I look a full 15 seconds younger than I am.
Second, this lapse might explain why some of my bird photos are fuzzy. I’m focusing on an average of where the bird was in the last 15 seconds.
Third, maybe our brains have a bias to stability in many ways, not just visually. Maybe we interpret the world we’re experiencing now based more on what we’ve experienced before than on this whole in-the-moment thing. That might mean that as we get older we get steadily worse at “seeing” — believing, understanding — what’s actually in front of us.
But you know, that “almost c0nsistently” caught my attention. Guys, get back to me when you no longer need the “almost.” Until then, I’m going to stick with my impression of the brain from, oh, about 15 seconds before I clicked on this article.