GOODREADS WHY OUR BRAINS SEE THINGS AS THEY DO

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Mad­hus­ree Ghosh

Our brains are trick­ing us all the time, see­ing only what we have been pre­con­di­tioned to per­ceive and leav­ing out much of the world around us. That’s Beau Lotto’s take in his in­trigu­ing book on how the brain works, and why it leaves out what it leaves out.

In De­vi­ate: See­ing Re­al­ity dif­fer­ently, Lotto starts with the ex­am­ple of ‘The Dress’ that broke the in­ter­net in 2014 as peo­ple around the world ar­gued over whether it was blue-and-black or white-and-gold.

He then takes the readers back to 18th cen­tury France, when the French chemist Michel Chevreul first ex­plored the prin­ci­ples why peo­ple see cer­tain colours dif­fer­ently, es­pe­cially in dif­fer­ent lights. Es­sen­tially, he said, con­text is ev­ery­thing when it comes to colours — and who knows what else?

The 10 chap­ters touch upon sub­jects such as the phys­i­ol­ogy of as­sump­tions and the role of per­cep­tion in in­no­va­tion. Some parts are a bit repet­i­tive, but along the way, Lotto touches upon how our per­cep­tion is shaped by our his­tory, cul­ture, evolv­ing so­ci­eties and the eter­nal tug of war between so­ci­ety and in­di­vid­ual, con­form­ity and de­vi­a­tion.

Mil­lions of years ago, man learnt to see only what he needed to see in or­der to sur­vive, Lotto says.

“Our brain is a phys­i­cal em­bod­i­ment of our an­ces­tor’s per­cep­tual re­flexes shaped through the process of nat­u­ral se­lec­tion those of the cul­ture in which we are em­bed­ded,” Lotto writes. It is vi­tal, he sug­gests, to be­gin to en­gage with the world as it is now.

Whether it’s cli­mate change or re­new­able en­ergy, refugees or ter­ror, the so­lu­tions that will work have not been ar­rived at yet. Quite sim­ply, it’s a dan­ger­ous time to think in­side the box as a species.

And in or­der to do this, we must be­gin by chang­ing our per­cep­tion of un­cer­tainty. Where we had once pro­grammed our­selves to move away from un­cer­tainty, and to sus­pect it, we must now em­brace and en­gage with it. We must be­gin to cel­e­brate doubt and en­cour­age ‘de­vi­a­tion’; use sci­ence to im­par­tially ob­serve our own per­cep­tion.

A first step, he sug­gests, is lis­ten­ing — that key in­di­ca­tion that you are open­ing your

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