Friday, November 15, 2013

Seeing and Not Seeing

Recent results published in the journal Psychological Science by University of Arizona doctoral degree candidate, Jay Sanguinetti shows that the brain processes and understands visual input that we may never consciously be aware of. In research with his advisor, Mary Peterson, Ph.D., black and white images were shown to subjects while their EEG patterns (brain waves) were observed. The work was specifically focused on seeing the images at the outer edges of the image.

Subjects' brainwaves showed that even if a person never consciously recognized the shapes on the outside of the image, their brains still worked on figuring out their meaning. "There's a brain signature for meaningful processing," Sanguinetti said. "A peak in the averaged brainwaves called N400 indicates that the brain has recognized an object and associated it with a particular meaning. It happens about 400 milliseconds after the image is shown, less than a half a second," said Peterson.

To me, this seems to beg the question of intuition. Is intuition just the brain's unconscious recognition of a subtle visual cue? For example, sometimes you meet someone that just doesn't hit you right. You have no basis for your unease, but later find out he/she was caught stealing or cheating on a test. Perhaps the brain picked up on something and sounded the alarm subconsciously. Hmm... Go Science!

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