One of the brain’s most fascinating backstage feats is its ability to fill in missing gaps in our vision or even stimuli that seem like they ought to be there but aren’t for some reason.
The ought is most interesting because it implies something rational and meaningful, neither of which are supposed to play a role in pure sensory stimulation or perception. Our brain regularly fills in gaps detected in our sensory field.
Tinkering With Upside-Down Vision
Did you know that you actually “see” the world upside down? Well, you do. You just don’t know it because your brain has fiddled around with your perceptions so that you think you see the world right-side up.
This is one of many examples of how the brain rethinks what it sees. It is constantly involved in an interpretative (thinking) function in relation to vision. The brain automatically takes the inverted upside down image presented by the retina of the eye and turns it right side up so that our vision correlates with our experience of reality.
Fake Color in Our Peripheral Vision
Did you know that your peripheral vision only sees in black and white? Probably not, but your brain has, once again, deceived you without your knowledge. You think you see everything in your vision in color. But you don’t.
There are no cones in the part of your retina that takes in your peripheral vision, hence it is a place where we have no actual experience of color. The retina of the eye has about 126 million little photoreceptors which convert light waves into electrochemical signals which travel to the brain and give us the experience of sight.
Of these, 120 million rods (providing brightness sensitivity) and 6-7 million cones (providing color sensitivity) give us the combined sensation of direct and peripheral vision. However, the vast majority of the color-sensitive cones are packed into a tiny area in the center of the retina called the fovia centralis. Around this area is a ring of less-densely packed cones, and around that ring are only rods. The significance of this tiny ringed structure is that we cannot see color in our peripheral vision because there are simply no cones around the outer ring.
Despite this handicap, we regularly experience “reality” has having color in our peripheral vision. This is an outright lie created by our brain!
Phony Vision in the Blind Spot
Still another example of the brain’s independent thinking function has to do with blind spots in the eye. There is an area of retina which is obstructed by the optic nerve as it snakes back into the brain from the eye. In this area there are no light sensitive photoreceptors. As a result, everyone experiences a blind spot in their field of vision. The blind spot will show up in our field of vision, in both eyes, roughly 20 degrees to the outer periphery of our field of vision.
Tests using background color, background designs, and movement, actually demonstrate that the blind spot will be “filled in” with whatever color or design “fits” the area surrounding it. Thus, the brain intelligently guesses what ought to be in our vision field. It creates the illusion that our visual field is seamless.
Sensory Tricks We Play on Ourselves
It should be very obvious to you by now that the brain has an insatiable desire to make sense of what it perceives. It is so desperate to create logic and order out of raw sensory data that it will actually cheat by cleaning up gaps and holes in our sensory knowledge so that everything appears tidy. The brain is so dead-set on creating order that it will disregard reality and invent an orderly perception.
Optical illusions are a fun way to examine the brain’s propensity for making order out of anything. Optical illusions put the brain’s parlor tricks and guessing games on obvious display so we get to actually watch our brain creating order and rationality. Optical illusions reveal the brain is thinking without language or conscious control. The thinking process gets laid out bare on the table.
Illusions of Thought Patterns
What is interesting is that the brain treats words (or what I call “thought-units”) in the same way that it treats sensory data. By this, I mean that the brain’s compulsive patterning behavior spills over into the realm of our intellectual data as well as our sensory data. The brain fills in linguistic gaps in order to create a cohesive meaning, the same way it fills in sensory gaps to create a seamless experience of reality.
Over time, the brain becomes extremely adept at ignoring, adding, or modifying linguistic material so that the entire linguistic experience, verbal or written, will make sense. The analogy between sensory gap-filling and linguistic gap-filling is quite extraordinary. In both cases, the ultimate goal is for the brain to create an artificially seamless, coherent reality.
There are a number of brain games equivalent to optical illusions that illustrate this point. I will call these cognitive illusions. Try taking this test. Count how many times the letter F appears in the following text:
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS…
How many did you get? Most people count three, and the rare person can count four Fs. However, the correct answer is five because the brain has difficulty processing the word of in this context.
This task is obvious and extremely simple—yet we consistently fail! This is not a matter of intellect or vision; it is a matter of pattern-making. The brain has decided to only count the letter F when it appears in a sufficiently important word such as finished, files, or scientific. The lowly and common word of is treated with the characteristic humble invisibility of a domestic servant.
The brain organizes the world according to its expectations of what it expects to find!
Try another classic test. This one may be a little easier now that you’ve been tipped off as to how to read. Is there anything wrong with the following phrase?
If read rather quickly, most people simply don’t see the word the in the fourth line of the phrase. After having learned how to read in grade school, we all tend to assume that the word the is attached to a noun and will appear together with it. This assumption overrides the visual information that the word has already appeared in the preceding line.
In other words, the brain desperately wants to make sense of the sentence and has no qualms about ruthlessly and flagrantly eliminating a word just to satisfy this goal.
But then, let’s take a slightly different example. Is it possible to decipher what this text is saying?
cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
In this amazing little “nonsense” paragraph which circulated for a while on the Internet, Cambridge University researchers discovered we can still make sense out of the text with words containing jumbled-up letters—as long as the first and last letters of the word were in their correct positions. I call these letters the “anchor” letters. They act as guideposts for determining what the other letters ought to be.
Strangely enough, the human brain is capable of re-scrambling the letters at lightening speed in order to make sense of the words. Just as it does when viewing an optical illusion, the mind has a fantastic ability to spontaneously restructure reality in a way that is meaningful according to its prior expectations of meaning.
The Brain Causes Us To Unlearn Psychic Ability
How does this relate to psychic intuition? It should be increasingly obvious by now that psychic ability is not tainted by logic. But it should also be apparent that as we age and become more intelligent, the brain begins to hijack our perceptions. The brain applies logic where none exists and creates rationality where none exists.
The brain seeks patterns in order to help us understand our disorderly impressions. This is how we unwittingly unlearn psychic ability during a lifetime.
© 2012 Nancy du Tertre. All rights reserved.
Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, New Page Books
a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371.
Psychic Intuition: Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask but Were Afraid to Know
by Nancy du Tertre.
About the Author
Nancy du Tertre is an attorney who became a trained psychic detective, spiritual medium, medical intuitive, and paranormal investigator. A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, she is a frequent media guest. Nancy also lectures to university psychology students and paranormal conventions and hosts her own radio show--Hot Leads Cold Cases--on Para-X and CBS Radio. Her Website is theskepticalpsychic.com.
Video with Nancy du Tertre: How to Become Psychic if You Weren't Born Psychic