Brain News – A study reveals that the human brain refreshes itself every 15 seconds to consolidate new information into one impression. This makes humans experience a stable reality.
A study, conducted at University of California, Berkeley, provides insight into why objects in the real world appear stabler than their constantly fluctuating retinal images.
For the study, the researchers recruited 100 study participants through Amazon Mechanical Turk’s crowdsourcing platform and made them view close-ups of morphed in 30-second time-lapse videos. They were asked to guess the age or gender of the morphed faces based on clues. After viewing the video, they were asked to identify the faces. The participants almost consistently picked a frame they viewed halfway through the video, instead of the ‘final frame’ of the most updated image.
The findings, published in Science Advances, reveal that the brain operates with a slight lag when processing visual stimuli. This makes the objects in the real world appear stable, detached from the fluctuating retinal images caused by noise. This is called “change blindness” and it helps the human mind experience a ‘stable reality’ to prevent it from being bombarded by fast visual inputs in everyday life. This is the active stabilization mechanism behind the “continuity field”.
Continuity field is a purposeful function of human consciousness. It is a function of perception in which our brain merges what we see on a constant basis to give us a sense of visual stability. It imposes “change blindness” on the visual system, making it experience a pull toward the past. In judgment, this pull is manifested as “serial dependence”—which causes objects to be misperceived as being similar to those in the recent past.
However, the “procrastinating” human brain refreshing itself every 15 seconds to consolidate new data into one impression may not always be for the better. In surgical precision, for instance, change blindness has life-or-death consequences. Mauro Manassi, a lead co-author of the study, said, “For example, radiologists screen for tumors and surgeons need to be able to see what is in front of them in real time; if their brains are biased to what they saw less than a minute ago, they might miss something.”
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Manassi, M., & Whitney, D. (2022). Illusion of visual stability through active perceptual serial dependence. Science advances, 8(2), eabk2480. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abk2480