2 years ago
Do we only see what we desire to see? Or rather, do we only see what our brain is inclined to notice? Writing for Nautilus, Tom Vanderbilt explores how we perceive the world in ways beyond our conscious control. He concludes that two people can watch the same event and legitimately feel they witnessed two different occurrences.
How can this be, though? Quite simply, their brains are taking in different data. Vanderbilt reports that psychologists discovered this back in 1951, when they interviewed fans from rival teams after a Princeton-Dartmouth game that Princeton won. He writes:
“Shortly after the game, the psychologists Albert Hastorf and Hadley Cantril interviewed students and showed them film of the game. They wanted to know things like: ‘Which team do you feel started the rough play?’ Responses were so biased in favor of each team that the researchers came to a rather startling conclusion: ‘The data here indicate there is no such ‘thing’ as a ‘game’ existing ‘out there’ in its own right which people merely ‘observe.’’ Everyone was seeing the game they wanted to see.”
We’re still trying to understand exactly why this happens. That said, exploring the evidence, it’s hard not to agree that “attention” should “be thought of as what you allow your eyes to look at.” And yes, there are implications that go well beyond sports. After all, if our brains render us incapable of seeing everything, this is ominous for “the idea that policy or other debates can be solved by simply giving people accurate information.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how your brain operates, watch the video below.