Perception and reality
Brian Cox and Robin Ince– the Infinite Monkey Cage – Radio 4 – How we perceive the Real.
Guests include Gloria Hammond, Alan Morse, and Beau Lotto.
Broadcast 26th November 2013.
This was a fascinating broadcast on reality and how we see the world. It gives some great insight into how our brains work when we look at the world and how each of us has a different view of reality. This program helps to unlock the reasons why we react/don’t react to things including photographs.
The program started by explaining that artist often try and find ways to alter the way they see the world, with some using drink and drugs and other either traveling or immersing themselves in a new environment/culture. Even animals do it – for example dogs are often seen cocking there heads to try and uncover any missing information. Some states and religious groups on the other hand want their people to have one way of perceiving reality (i.e. their way), as this provides them with a good way of controlling and monitoring behaviour.
The program then discussed how little our senses actually take in when we interact with the world,(often less then 10%), with as much as 90% being processes internally. This is natural, as the brain is only concerned with stimuli that it needs to something about. Our brain’s role is to make sense of the world around us and to determine what action to take – it therefore needs to be selective on what to focus on.
The science used to come to these conclusions is based on measuring behaviour, but this can cover the narrow limits/range of the human senses. There is therefore a reality that exist that we can’t sense on both the macro and micro level, and outside our normal field of view – i.e infrared light. This helps supports the argument that there no one view of reality but multiple ones which depend on what senses are being used and their sensitivity.
The discussion then moved to how our brain selects what information it needs to collect for processing. The theory is that we bestow behavioural values on things and look for patterns to both recognise and then apply learning to what we have seen. The example given was how our view of reality has changed from just seeing the stars, to navigation, to the present day view based on space travel and cosmic science – guess who made this point!
This process was then expanded to cover reactive and learning patterns to things like snakes and smoke alarms, (i.e . the sound triggers us respond to the danger), as well as writers ability to transport themselves to different realities through fictional novels.
The program concludes with looking beyond our normal perception of reality by exploring how a blind persons reality can exists outside his physical space because he is using his stick to sense/ see his environment. They also discussed how reality alters in time, and discussed how it passes slowly when we are waiting for a delayed train, but or even slower, if were involved in an accident where a lot happens in a short time frame – their conclusion to this latter point is that we think better in these situations rather than faster because we are focusing on what is urgent!
I find these concept program’s are very useful in studying photography because a photograph is seen as a trace of a past reality but seen in the reality of the moment. It is a point I would like to explore more in the future.