Troy, N.Y. Catching a football. Maneuvering through a room full of people. Jumping out of the way when a golfer yells fore. Most would agree these seemingly simple actions require us to perceive and quickly respond to a situation. Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Mark Changizi argues they require something moreour ability to foresee the future.
It takes our brain nearly one-tenth of a second to translate the light that hits our retina into a visual perception of the world around us. While a neural delay of that magnitude may seem minuscule, imagine trying to catch a ball or wade through a store full of people while always perceiving the very recent (one-tenth of a second prior) past. A ball passing within one meter of you and traveling at one meter per second in reality would be roughly six degrees displaced from where you perceive it, and even the slowest forward-moving person can travel at least ten centimeters in a tenth of a second.
Changizi claims the visual system has evolved to compensate for neural delays, allowing it to generate perceptions of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future, so that when an observer actually perceives something, it is the present rather than what happened one-tenth of a second ago. Using his hypothesis, called perceiving-the-present, he was able to systematically organize and explain more than 50 types of visual illusions that occur because our brains are trying to perceive the near future. His findings are described in May-June issue of the journal Cognitive Science.
Illusions occur when our brains attempt to perceive the future, and those perceptions dont match reality. There has been great success at discovering and documenting countless visual illusions. There has been considerably less success in organizing them, says Changizi, who is lead author on the paper. My research focused on systematizing these known incidents of failed future
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute