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Most of the Mind Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction

http://nautil.us/blog/-most-of-the-mind-cant-tell-fact-from-fiction

nautil.us

Most of the Mind Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction
Even after you understand how an illusion operates, it continues to fool part of your mind. This is the kind of double knowledge we…

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Fiction and the mind

Fiction and the mind

Stories, fiction included, act as a kind of replacement for life. You can learn information from them very effortlessly. You'll also remember false information without realizing and will find fictional stories emotionally arousing.

The reason we react to fiction as though it were real is that our mind does not even realize that fiction is fiction.

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Confusing fiction with reality

When stories are done well, they are like artificial sweeteners - they fool the mind into thinking we're consuming the real thing.

For example, children sometimes really believe that puppets are alive. Even animals sometimes react to pictures as if they are real things.

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Emotions influence our perception

The rational part of our mind knows that what we're looking at, or reading, isn't real. However, the perceptual areas of our brains are very closely connected to our emotions.

Emotions force us to interpret the world differently. Research reveals how fear can affect vision, moods can make us more or less susceptible to visual illusions, and desire can change the apparent size of goal-relevant objects.

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The ghost ball trick

The ghost ball trick

A magician sat at a table in front of a group of schoolchildren. He threw a ball up in the air a few times, but before his last throw, he secretly let the ball fall into his lap. Then he continued ...

The role that social cues play during magic tricks

In the vanishing ball illusion, a study found that when the magician pretends to throw the ball in the air, and his gaze follows the imaginary trajectory of the ball, almost two-thirds of the participants will be convinced that they had seen the ball move up. If his gaze did not follow the imaginary ball, the illusion was far less effective.

This illustrates that the illusion is mostly driven by expectations. Our eyes find it difficult to track fast-moving objects. Looking at the ball is only possible when we can predict where it will be in the future.

Perception does not take place in the eyes

Although most participants experience an illusory effect during magic tricks, the eyes are not tricked. The conscious perception has been fooled by the illusion, but your eyes have not.

Lots of neural calculations are required before we can experience the world. Neural signals start in the retina, then it passes through different neural centers to the visual cortex and higher cortical areas, and eventually build a mental representation of the outside world. It takes about a tenth of a second for the light registered by the retina to become a visual perception. The neural delay means we perceive things at least a tenth of a second after they happened.

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Childhood amnesia

Childhood amnesia

On average, people’s memories stretch back no farther than the age of three and a half.

New science suggests that when we move into adulthood, the brain must let go of muc...

Our earliest memories are forgotten

  • In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud gave childhood amnesia its name. The most commonly accepted explanation for childhood amnesia was that children couldn't form stable memories until age 7 - even though evidence for this idea was lacking.
  • In the late 1980s, experiments revealed that children three and younger keep their memories, although it is limited. At 6 months of age, infants' memories last for a day, and by age 2, for a year. At around age 6, children begin to forget many of their earliest memories.

The early childhood brain

From birth to our early teens, we have far more links between brain cells. The excess brain mass is very adaptable and allows children to learn very quickly.

But the adaptability comes with a price. The large and complex network in the brain is still busy growing and not as capable of forming memories efficiently as in adulthood. Consequently, long-term memories created in our first three years of life are the least stable and prone to be forgotten as we age.

A mind without language

A mind without language

It isn't easy to imagine our mind without language. We can't think, plan, or relate to other people if we lack words to structure our ideas.

Bertrand Russel stated that the task of ...

Language and acquiring information

Take language away, and the amount of information you can acquire decreases.

Many deaf children born into hearing families live in a world unable to communicate properly. They are never exposed to abstract ideas such as "justice" or "global warming." Unless the parents learn sign language, the child's language access will be delayed or missing entirely.

Non-linguistic limitations

The lack of language affects even functions like math. Keeping track of exact numbers above four requires knowing the words for these numbers. The language-number interdependency means many deaf children in industrialized societies fall behind in math because they did not learn to count.

Social cognition is another part of your mind that needs language to develop. Why is your mom upset? Understanding social situations requires inferring what people around you are thinking.