November 28, 2005

Glad It Isn't Just Me

This an article about déjà vu, but the bit below is so me.

....The discovery of what's called inattentional blindness lends support to this idea. People fail to see things in their field of vision all the time. But even though you are oblivious to, say, the storefront next to your destination, it still registers in memory. In lab tests, when a word flashes too quickly for someone to consciously perceive it, and then flashes long enough to be read, people say they saw it on a previous list, not realizing they saw it a second ago.
Posted by Ithildin at November 28, 2005 10:52 AM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE

Eh, it's not just memory. All that sensory data also gets thought about, too, albeit not at the conscious level. Indeed, it's surely the rare bit of data that survives the brutal winnowing that occurs between our most primitive thought processes and our conscious awareness.

The conceptual error in the assumptions that would seem to underly this paragraph are that we consciously perceive things before we think about them. Almost certainly, it's the other way around. Only when we have thought (unconsciously) about things and concluded that they are important do we then consciously perceive them, and get the chance to consciously think about them.

Posted by: Arugula son of Aroomwithaview at November 28, 2005 11:06 AM

actually, some of us suffer from preconscious perception, or unconscious perception, which is the ability to recognize something before you're even aware of its presence. Trust me, it's creepy.

Posted by: caltechgirl at November 28, 2005 12:10 PM

That sounds interesting. Do you feel like telling me a bit more about it? I can't helpt, this sort of thing is facinating to me :)

Posted by: Ith at November 28, 2005 12:26 PM

Then there are the times when I get deja vu because something is happening that was in a dream.

Posted by: Jay at November 28, 2005 3:37 PM

Yes! I have that happen too.

Posted by: Ith at November 28, 2005 3:47 PM

it's like you think about something and you look up, and it's there, or you see someone in the distance, and you know it's them before they're close enough to recognize.

Kinda weird.

Posted by: caltechgirl at November 28, 2005 11:11 PM

What do you (c.t.g) mean "some of us"? I'd say all of us recognize many things without being conscious of the fact, or rather, before being conscious of the fact. Watch mothers at the playground, for example: each knows their own child's voice very well, and can deduce from the tone of a yelled "Mom!" almost instantly whether the subtext is "Mom! Come watch me slide on the slide!" or "Mom! I've cut myself on a sharp thingy and there's an unbelievable amount of blood coming out now."

Consider how one reacts to a partner coming in to bed while you're asleep. If it's a "normal" thing, e.g. at night, he or she often arrives this hour, et cetera, you're not likely to wake up. But let it happen in a weird way -- he's supposed to be away on a trip, and never comes home at this hour -- and you're far more likely to wake up. (Let it not be a partner, but a stranger, and you'll wake up even faster.) Some part of your brain recognizes the pattern of sounds and decides to "wake the boss" -- consciousness -- depending on whether the implications of the pattern demand it.

This isn't, or shouldn't, be surprising. Our basic brains must work little differently from animals, and surely many if not all of their brains do a great deal of processing of things without the pre-requisite of consciousness.

Indeed, thinking about how things evolve suggests consciousness is probably something bolted onto our basic processing module, a bit of an aftermarket device. If you were cynical, you could even argue that consciousness exists mostly to help us rationalize, organize, and explain to others decisions and thoughts that, by and large, we've already arrived at pre-consciously.

Posted by: Artifex son of Arctangent at November 29, 2005 4:29 PM