Are We Living In The Past? New Study Shows Your Brain Is Like A Time Machine That Can Transport Us Back 15 Seconds – Icestech

Are We Living In The Past? New Study Shows Your Brain Is Like A Time Machine That Can Transport Us Back 15 Seconds

Our eyes are continuously bombarded by an enormous amount of visual information – millions of shapes, colors, and ever-changing motion all around us.

For the brain, this is no easy feat, so the body’s master organ has to employ some tricks.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have found that human brains show us 15 seconds ‘in the past’ instead of trying to update our vision in real-time.


This mechanism known as the ‘continuity field’, gives us more stability, according to the researchers.

Assistant Psychology Professor Mauro Manassi from the University of Aberdeen and Psychology Professor David Whitney from the University of California in Berkeley wrote in The Conversation that the eyes constantly see an altering visual world due to the light, viewpoint, blinking, and bodily movements.

But despite the noisy and ever-changing visual world, the brain still perceives a remarkably stable world. In the study, titled “Illusion of Visual Stability Through Active Perceptual Serial Dependence” published in Science, researchers introduced a previously unknown visual illusion that shows the brain is continuously smoothing perceptions over time to create an illusion of stability despite seeing a physically changing object.

That means the brain seems to act like a time machine that keeps sending people back in time by consolidating the visual input every 15 seconds into one impression so people can handle everyday life.

Researchers explain that if brains constantly update in real-time, it would feel chaotic given the constant fluctuations in light, shadow, and movement.
In the study, the researchers set out to understand the mechanism behind change blindness, in which we don’t notice subtle changes over times.

The team recruited around 100 participants, before showing them close-up videos of faces morphing over 30 seconds.

To ensure there would be few clues to the changes, the images did not include head or facial hair, and only showed eyes, brows, nose, mouth, chin and cheeks.

After viewing the 30-second videos, the participants were asked to identify the final face they saw.

The results showed that the participants almost consistently chose a frame they had viewed halfway through the video, rather than the final one.

Professor Whitney said: ‘One could say our brain is procrastinating.

‘It’s too much work to constantly update images, so it sticks to the past because the past is a good predictor of the present.

‘We recycle information from the past because it’s faster, more efficient and less work.’

This idea – which is also supported by other results – of mechanisms within the brain that continuously bias our visual perception towards our past visual experience is known as continuity fields.

Our visual system sometimes sacrifices accuracy for the sake of a smooth visual experience of the world around us. This can explain why, for example, when watching a film we don’t notice subtle changes that occur over time, such as the difference between actors and their stunt doubles.

Repercussions
There are positive and negative implications to our brain operating with this slight lag when processing our visual world. The delay is great for preventing us from feeling bombarded by visual input every day, but it can also risk life-or-death consequences when absolute precision is needed.

For example, radiologists examine hundreds of images in batches, seeing several related images one after the other. When looking at an X-ray, clinicians are typically asked to identify any abnormalities and then classify them.

During this visual search and recognition task, researchers have found that radiologists’ decisions were based not only on the present image, but also on images they had previously seen, which could have grave consequences for patients.

Our visual system’s sluggishness to update can make us blind to immediate changes because it grabs on to our first impression

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