With 1/4 of our brain involved in processing visual information, you’d think that we see and perceive the world pretty accurately. As it turns out, there is too much information for our brain to process everything – so it just skips over things that aren’t deemed important. If something looks familiar – like a generic car – and we have no reason to look at it in detail, then we can be easily fooled into thinking we see something that we aren’t. My theory is that when we aren’t consciously looking at something, we see it in a more referential way. Our logical left brain knows that cars are on the street and it knows what cars look like, therefore, if the visual processing of the brain isn’t fully engaged (it isn’t that important to really look at) then we can be easily fooled into thinking we see something that we really aren’t seeing.
In the example below, the people don’t even notice that the car has no depth and is a flat photographic life size print. I believe the reason that they don’t notice is because they never really look at the car other than in a referential way. There is no reason to perceive the space that the car occupies and given the distractions, clearly these people’s brains simply don’t process all of the visual information that they have available to them. The perception conflict of seeing a flat image of a car doesn’t make sense in the context of what they are seeing, so their brain just dismissed it and accepted the image of the car as a real car.
Here is the link: http://www.wimp.com/disappearingprank/
Think about the context. The man asks the people to watch his car. They glance over and see what looks more or less like a car but don’t actually get to “see” the car because their focus is really on the man talking. I submit that if the man said “look at that life size poster cutout of a car over there”, that they would not have ever seen what they believed to be a car. It all has to do with context and how the brain processes the information given to it and what the perception expectation is.
In many ways, the above is a broader explanation of what is happening with regards to imagery in general. There is so much, we simply don’t look at things – we just get a sense of them. We have so many distractions that we don’t visually engage in looking at things in detail. This sensory overload and the abundance of imagery via camera phones and the internet, make it less valued.