Stage magicians are not the only ones who can distract the eye: a new cognitive psychology experiment demonstrates how all human beings have a built-in ability to stop paying attention to objects that are right in front of them.
We see much less of the world than we think we do
Perception experts have long known that we see much less of the world than we think we do. A person creates a mental model of their surroundings by stitching together scraps of visual information gleaned while shifting attention from place to place. Counterintuitively, the very process that creates the illusion of a complete picture relies on filtering out most of what’s out there.
In a paper published today in the journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics a team of U of T researchers reveal how people have more “top-down” control of what they don’t notice than many scientists previously believed.
“The visual system really cares about objects,” says postdoctoral fellow J. Eric T. Taylor, who is the lead author on the paper. “If I move around a room, the locations of all the objects — chairs, tables, doors, walls, etc. — change on my retina, but my mental representation of the room stays the same.”
Objects play fundamental role in how we focus our attention
Objects play such a fundamental role in how we focus our attention that many perception researchers believe we are “addicted” to them; we couldn’t stop paying attention to objects if we tried. The visual brain guides attention largely by selecting objects — and this process is widely believed to be automatic.
From the May 2014 article
…A study from Nigeria published last year found 64% of students believed that wearing glasses can damage eyes. Research in the Indian state of Karnataka put the figure at 30%, and in Pakistan 69% of people feel the same way. In Brazil, even medical staff believed that your eyes would gradually get weaker as a consequence of wearing glasses. Is there any evidence to suggest they are right?
There are, of course, two very different reasons why people wear glasses – short-sightedness, or myopia, where things in the distance are blurry; and long-sightedness, or hyperopia, where you can’t focus on things close up. Long-sightedness is often age-related: many people begin noticing in their 40-50s that it’s difficult to read in low lighting. As we age the lenses in our eyes gradually stiffen, making it harder to adjust to different distances. When people get to the stage where their arms aren’t long enough to hold a book or menu far enough away to focus on the text, they opt for reading glasses.
What’s surprising is how few trials have been conducted on the prolonged effect of wearing glasses. And from what we know there’s no persuasive evidence that wearing reading glasses affects your eyesight….
Mobile Devices Were Wrecking My Health. Here’s How I Plan to Change That (One Person’s Self Diagnosis)
’m the first guy to extol the fruits of mobile technology. The flexibility and power they provide, the productivity they can enhance. But every sword has two edges (unless it’s a sabre or scimitar, but I digress).
My eyesight – stuck at the same prescription for more than a decade – began worsening again about a year ago. I noticed I was sleeping less and less well, routinely waking up unrefreshed and with a sore lower back.
Mentally, I felt foggy in a way that a shot of Peet’s Coffee or 5-Hour Energy could only temporarily cure. My once-infallible memory gave way to struggles to remember routine facts and names.
At first, I blamed other factors: parenting two young boys, crossing the big 4-oh, even a saggy mattress.
I don’t expect the Surgeon General to start Warning that the Kindle Fire is Hazardous for One’s Health. Still, it’s clear that something so right can also be so wrong…
[I found these excerpts a bit startling]
39% said they wake up in the middle of the night to check e-mail (8% do it every night). When asked how their device keeps them awake at night, 47% said it made them think about work, while 36% said it wakes them with sounds at night.
elite consultants don’t just send one another emails at 1 a.m. They expect answers by 3 a.m.
- Mobile Devices Were Wrecking My Health. Here’s How I Plan to Change That. (forbes.com)
- Mobile Devices Were Wrecking My Health. Here’s How I Plan to Change That. (thehealthcareblog.com)