back to article When is seeing not seeing?

Also in this week's column: Are women who are forty, fat and fair more likely to get gallstones? Why is the human face hairless? Is the human skull made up of one bone or two? When is seeing not seeing? Do you ever wonder how a magician is able to fool you with a trick, as they say, “right before your very eyes”? …

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Or is it lack of cognition?

I have noticed that the degree of attention I have for detail grows with my knowledge of the subject. When visiting unfamiliar places, for example, I fail to notice many details which on later visits, when I have become more educated on the place, are hard to miss. (How I wish I could think of an example at this point!)

"Seeing" is a complex process. The light rays pass onto our retina, the optic nerve responds, somewhere the brain registers a stimulus. But true "noticing" involves a cognitive response. If we don't have an understanding of the light-patterns falling on our retina it gets discarded.

Put another way, we don't just see shape X, we see "a house", "an animal", a "something-we-understand". And if we don't understand the chances are we just don't take any notice.

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