This might come as a shock, but everything you think is wrong. Much of what you take for granted about day-to-day existence is largely a figment of your imagination. From your senses to your memory, your opinions and beliefs, how you see yourself and others and even your sense of free will, things are not as they seem. The power these delusions hold over you is staggering, yet, as Graham Lawton discovers, they are vital to help you function in the world.
-> What you see is not what you get:
Your senses are your windows on the world, and you probably think they do a fair job at capturing an accurate depiction of reality. Don’t kid yourself. Sensory perception – especially vision – is a figment of your imagination. “What you’re experiencing is largely the product of what’s inside your head,” says psychologist Ron Rensink at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “It’s informed by what comes in through your eyes, but it’s not directly reflecting it.”
Given the basic features of your visual system, it couldn’t be any other way. For example, every 5 seconds or so, you blink. Yet unless you’re thinking about it, as you probably are right now, you don’t notice the blackouts because your brain edits them out.
-> The grand delusion: Blind to bias
Do you see the world through a veil of prejudice and self-serving hypocrisies? Or is it just other people who do that?
for example :
Whatever your opinion of President Barack Obama, it isn’t hard to find someone who disagrees. A recent poll in the US found that Obama is the most divisive president since the 1950s: 81 per cent of fellow Democrats think he’s doing a good job but only 13 per cent of opposing Republicans agree.
How can so many people make a judgement about the same person and come to such different conclusions? The obvious explanation is that they are biased – by their political affiliations, by the media, by their friends and family and much else.
This obvious explanation is correct. But who, precisely, is biased? It depends who you ask. Those who approve of Obama think the conservatives, and their media, are the biased ones. Those who don’t, think it’s the liberals. In fact, they are …
-> Head full of half- truths
One of the most important components of your self-identity – your autobiographical memory – is little more than an illusion.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It’s a warm and sunny English afternoon and I’m playing outside in the garden. Suddenly a shiny silver aircraft appears in the clear blue sky. My mother picks me up and points to it; neighbours come out of their houses to watch. The aeroplane is Concorde, climbing out of Heathrow airport on one of its earliest flights.
I can play this memory over and over in my head as easily as watching a YouTube clip, and yet I know it almost certainly cannot be real. Even though Concorde could have passed over our house on test flights, I only lived there until 1971, when I was barely out of nappies. And Concorde was white, not silver.
Where does the mismatch between my memory and reality come from? “We’ve known …