Philosophy TuesdayMarch 17, 2015
This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
I’ve been enjoying the various things to pop out of neuroscience of late, not only because it’s fascinating, but because most of it aligns with and corroborates 2500 years of ontological thought. The figure-y out-y side of me likes putting the two together and seeing how they march in lockstep.
One of the most revelatory, and powerful, findings I’ve come across is how our brains perceive the world. What we think is happening, and how it feels to us, is this:
Event –> Senses –> Consciousness –> Thought –> Action
When something happens in the world, we notice it, we perceive it, we are cognizant about it, and with that awareness we now evaluate it and from there can do something or move on. That’s totally how we experience the world.
Turns out, neuroscience has found that the order is this:
Event –> Senses –> Filter –> Consciousness –> Thought –> Action
The “filter” is something our brains do before we become aware of the event. It pre-judges and removes and colours the sensory input of the event, based on what we already know and our worldview. So by the time it hits our consciousness, it already more strongly aligns with our views of who we are, of who others are, and how the world is, leaving us an incomplete picture but one that feels quite right because its right by our view. (This is one way confirmation bias does its thing.) Our thoughts and actions are thereby limited by this incomplete perception.*
This filter is hidden from our view, and happens without any intentional effort on our part. Just as our views themselves are often hidden from our (conscious) view. (So it’s a double hidden.) When we’re not aware we have filters operating, we don’t really see what’s so. We see what we think we should see about what’s so.
In our world of patterns, repetitive habits and neuroses, of mostly always being right, and of wondering how can others look at the same thing and see things so differently, here’s one very strong way how we are, in many ways, actually seeing things differently. Sensory waves come in, but confirmation hits our brain.
The filter works best when it’s left alone to do its work in the background. If we train ourselves to remove or look around the filter – to be present and mindful – we can gain access to what’s so, leading to greater options and freedom. When we train ourselves to dismantle or thin our filters – or re-align them in an empowering way – we again gain access to being aware of the greater world and of a greater experience.
* – Research has also found that the thoughts/actions themselves also often begin happening/firing before it hits our consciousness, making being present and examining our filters that much more important.