How much of what we see, we ‘see’?

Yesterday,  I watched a video on a medical condition known as ’Neglect’(also known as Hemispatial neglect) which is exhibited by people with the right hemisphere of the brain injured (the left hemispherical injury could also result in this situation, but that is not bad as this, because of the built in redundancy in with the right hemisphere for the visual processing). These people lose their sense of space on one side (usually the left) and don’t much realize it.

This video showed a patient copying a picture of a cat and when she reproduced it, it just had only one half ! What was also interesting is that she did not realize that it was incomplete; she could actually see the whole picture.

This points to a very interesting aspect about the way we see. In fact, we ‘register’ only a small percentage of what we see around us, the rest of the details are filled in by the brain based on past experiences (retrieved from memory). Which is to say when you look at some object, you only notice some key features and the image in your mind is formed by combining what you see and what is already stored in your memory about the same object. Optical illusions and magic exploit this behavior of the brain. So the mind sort of takes a “Oh! I know this stuff already” approach.

This leads to problems like not paying attention to details, pre conceptions about things/events and also restricts your creative thinking.

 Now assume what happens if we don’t access the memory when we see things around us. You just watch. You perceive things as they are without judging, labeling, categorizing, connecting to yourself, attaching an attribute etc. We are in a way not letting the left brain come in the way. This can be a great experience and you will see the entire world around in a new perspective.

This is the essence of mindful watching…

Or will we just end up seeing the outline of everything around, like in cartoons?


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