10 Tricks Your Brain Is Playing On You Right Now

10 Ways Your Brain is Tricking You Right Now 10 Selective Filtering Our brains take in an immense amount of information all the time

The ambient sounds around us, our peripheral vision, even the feel of our clothes on our skin Now that I say it, you can probably feel them Sorry But in any case, if your brain consciously processed everything that happened around you all the time, it would be incredibly overwhelmed To combat this, the sensory part of your brain called the Thalamus does some clever stuff called selective filtering, or sensory gating

Basically, it filters out anything that the cerebral cortex decides is unimportant It’s probably doing it right now as you focus on this video Well, we hope That can even stretch to things like filtering out your nose between your eyes, since, y’know, who needs to see that all day long? Interestingly, inability to properly filter senses has been linked to mental illness, and a lack of auditory filtering is especially linked to Schizophrenia 9

The McGurk Effect Okay now bear with me here, because it sounds a little ridiculous to say: Your eyes hear better than your ears Okay, maybe not ‘better’, but you’d be surprised just how much effect they have over how you perceive sounds It’s called the McGurk effect, named after a paper by Harry McGurk, and it shows that if you see something that contradicts what you hear, your brain prioritises the most salient sense – and that tends to be your vision So let's use an example I’m gonna make two sounds and we’ll mix the the audio and visuals through the magic of editing

If I say ‘Ba ba ba’, it should sound like I’m making a B sound However, it sounds different if you can see me making a different mouth movement to the same sound As you can see, your brain sees me make the F sound and incorporates it into your hearing 8 Saccadic Masking Our eyes move a lot more than you’d think

Sometimes up to several times per second, they dart around in another direction with a movement called a saccade But there’s a bit of a problem If you’ve ever played a VR game or watched a found-footage movie, you’ll know how disorienting sudden movements can be when it comes to your vision So our brains play a trick to help us cope When your eyes look in a different direction the brain stops processing the images for around one ten thousandth of a second

But to compensate for those frequent blurs, the brain fills in the perceptive blanks with backdated impressions from after the saccade stops Those tiny gaps add up too It’s estimated that saccadic masking makes us technically blind for around 40 minutes per day While the phenomenon seems like a clever trick to stop motion sickness, it can cause major problems in the current day, when driving needs split second decision making 7

The Gambler’s Fallacy Okay let’s say you’re flipping a coin Every time it lands on heads, tails becomes more likely It has to since it’s 50/50 odds right? Actually… no You’ve just fallen for the gambler’s fallacy It’s a common mistake that our brains make when it comes to probability, where we assume that odds have to balance out

In reality, probability is never affected by repetition unless the conditions change So the odds of that coin flipping heads are exactly the same the 5th time as the 500th, even if you’re on 90% tails It sounds like faulty reasoning, but there’s actually evidence to suggest that the gambler’s fallacy is linked to activity in the Insula, the decision making part of the brain Studies have even found that people who suffered brain damage in that area are immune to those thought patterns, so they’re less likely to gamble That’s led to new avenues to treat gambling addictions

6 Typoglycemia If you try to read the sentence below, you can probably understand it When it cropped up online in 2003, that was the most famous example of Typoglycemia [Type-oh-gly-see-mia], the phenomenon where our brains read recognisable words even when their letters are jumbled It’s a bit of a mystery why it works, but research conducted at Royal Holloway University of London has begun to work out when our brains do and don’t unjumble words as we read them Similar research suggests Typoglycemia is a cognitive shortcut similar to ‘chunking’, when we group information together to process it more easily

If we can work out why our brains tell us we’re taking words from jumbled letters, there’s a good chance it can explain how our brains learn to read and what causes dyslexia 5 Inattentional Blindness Vision doesn’t really work in the way you’d expect Rather than the eyes simply recording what’s in front of you, unexpected objects outside of your focus often just don’t register In one study conducted by cognitive scientist Daniel Simons in 2004, people were asked to keep track of a group passing around a basketball on screen, and they were so focussed that they didn’t notice a man in a gorilla suit walking into frame

You can even see it in practice the new Childish Gambino music video for ‘This is America’, where Gambino’s dancing draws your eye from the chaos in the background The phenomenon even has legal applications In one 1995 case, a police officer was convicted of perjury after claiming he missed a seemingly obvious altercation while chasing a perp, but Simons recreated the circumstances and found 40% of people made the same mistake So maybe don’t be so hard on yourself next time you miss something 4

Resisting Correction You might be familiar with the term ‘confirmation bias’ That’s when you’re predisposed to agree with information that suits your existing world view But it actually goes both ways Your brain resists things that contradict it, no matter how factual According to French cognitive scientist Hugo Mercier, it’s because there was an evolutionary benefit to winning arguments rather than being right, since being right means nothing when you’re trying to avoid the dangers of hunting

That resistance is particularly prevalent with strongly held or politically charged views A University of Southern California study found that the brains of people who were presented with political challenges reacted in the same way as people who received personal insults It needs to be studied further, but that suggests that brains could have a kind of ideological immune system that kicks in to protect us from conflicting ideas, which is pretty scary in the time of fake news 3 False Memories You probably have a few crystal clear memories, like major life events where you can recall every detail of what happened

Well I hate to break it to you, but a good chunk of those treasured moments are probably made up That’s because memory recall tends to be a mixture of recalling real events and your brain filling in the blanks with general truths and external influences Those influences can have such an effect that it’s even possible to convince people of memories that never happened University of California Irvine professor Elizabeth Loftus is famous for doing just that, after she managed to convince people that they remembered being lost in a shopping mall as a child when, in fact, it never happened The prevalence of false memories theoretically causes big problems for eyewitness testimony, since courts have to rely on potentially unreliable accounts

2 Pareidolia Whether it’s everyday things like language or complex code breaking, our brains are incredible at spotting patterns It’s considered it the fundamental basis of human intelligence, and a major hurdle for artificial intelligence But impressive as our brains can be in that regard, sometimes those electrochemical processes make us just a little bit too efficient at spotting patterns Pareidolia describes your brain seeing patterns that simply aren’t there

Famous examples come from the art world, Jesus on toast and even the face on Mars Pareidolia happens because our eyes don’t produce nearly as accurate pictures as you’d think, so our brains predict what we’ll see based on experience As a result, they tend to project familiar sights onto unfamiliar patterns – like a rorschach test Kang Lee at the University of Toronto even found that even basic static triggers brain areas meant for facial recognition, suggesting our brains are predisposed to find faces even apparent randomness 1

Decision Making Say someone asks you if you want tea or coffee You might think you’re consciously weighing up the pros and cons, but there’s strong evidence to suggest that your subconscious had already decided Back in the 1980s, American brain scientist Benjamin Libet [lib-bay] discovered a so-called “readiness potential” where the brain lit up fractions of a second before a decision Then in 2008, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany ran an experiment using complex brain monitors to see just how the brain acts during decision making Participants pressed a button with either their left or right hand and noted when they had made the decision to press said button

The way the brains acted meant that the scientists could actually predict what the choice would be up to 7 seconds before the participants realised they’d decided These studies raise serious questions about conscious free will What we think is a real decision might just be manifestations of our subconscious That was 10 ways your brain is tricking you right now Did we miss any out? Let us know in the comments and make sure to like and subscribe

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