Saturday, March 7, 2009

Invisible Thinking

I've always been terrible at science - something I blame on my 10th grade biology teacher (that's a whole long boring story). But recently I've been pretty intrigued by what we're learning about how the brain works. It could be that I have just enough knowledge to be dangerous because I pretty much stick to layman's interpretations of this information rather than digging in to the actual science. But I'm more interested in the overview anyway.

The whole distinction between how our left and right brains work is the part that has most fascinated me. From the amazing speech that Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor (video link) gave at a TED conference as well as other sources, I've learned that the right brain is responsible for taking in all of the stimuli that we gather from our senses. And the left brain is responsible for sorting and naming so that we can make sense of it all.

The tricky part is that our senses and our right brains take in way more stimuli than we can sort. So the left brain has to develop some short-cuts to help us with that. One of the ways it does this is by sorting things into patterns that it has seen before. These short-cuts are what I'm calling "invisible thinking." Our brains place incoming stimuli into previously developed patterns so that we don't have to spend so much time analyzing and sorting through the myriads of data that we take in. Of course, the problem with this is that when we want to change our invisible thinking, that can be difficult to do unless we examine the patterns we've incorporated.

Some of this sorting process is what's at work with visual stimuli when we talk about the whole field of optical illusions. If you want to have some fun, visit this site, which has 81 different illusions to play with. There's even one that results in an approaching Buddha.

This is one of the most famous illusions. What do you see?



Is it a duck or a rabbit? If you're like me, one of these options is clear at first and it takes work to see the other one.

While researching all of this, I came across the art work of Octavio Ocampo. He not only captures the illusions, he does so with beauty and message as well.

Forever Always

Family of Birds

Sunlight's Kiss

What this art so beautifully demonstrates is that what we think we see at first is not all that's there. Our invisible thinking, or what we do at first glance, can leave out so much that is available to see and know. It takes time and work to get beyond our invisible thinking; something that's often not possible in our fast-paced world. But taking a second look at things is so often worth the effort.

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