Is this the real world, or is it just fantasy?

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How can we really know what’s ‘real’ in the world? The Perception Census, our new research project into perception, is helping to understand just how much of your perceptual experience is a product of your mind – rather than what’s actually out there.

The Perception Census is one of the largest scientific studies on perception ever undertaken – exploring how our experiences of the world differ for each of us.  It’s broken down into sections, and we’re going to delve into each of them in this series of blog posts. Previously, we wrote about the ways our capacities for mental imagery differ in our deep dive into the section ‘Power of Imagination’.

Pattern glare is a sensitivity to patterns often accompanied by the illusion of movement within the pattern. Researchers think that pattern glare happens because the areas of the brain involved in vision get ‘over excited’ when people look at bright lights, flicker, or patterns like these. Some people, such as those who experience migraines, seem to be impacted more by pattern glare than others. 

Have you ever thought you heard the doorbell ring only to find no one was there? Such things are described as ‘anomalous’ or ‘unexplained’ perceptual experiences.

The section ‘Boundaries of Perception’ in The Perception Census will ask you about your experience of perceptual glitches like this, that you may have experienced.

Is this the real world, or is it just fantasy?

A common view in science and philosophy is that when we perceive the world around us, our brains are not simply ‘reading out’ what’s there, like when a camera takes a photo. Instead, a lot of research has shown that our brains – and bodies – play a very active role in creating our conscious experiences, and making sure they track important aspects of the world around us.

The brain is constantly interpreting the information that comes in via our senses, and these active interpretations strongly influence what we experience. What’s more, our senses don’t work in isolation from each other.

Our experience of the world involves all our senses working together.

For example, what we hear can influence what we see, and vice versa. Researchers have found that we all differ in how deeply our senses are mixed, and how much our experiences are influenced by the brain’s active interpretations. This doesn’t mean that some ways of experiencing things are better than others. It’s just that there are natural differences between us.

Now you can explore how much of your perceptual experience comes from within, and how deeply they are mixed.

Take part now.

More about The Perception Census:

Learn about the potential of your mind in fun bite-size chunks – a series of games, illusions, brain teasers and mental challenges that investigate different aspects of how you experience the world, teaching you about your powers of perception as you go.

The findings will help scientists and philosophers understand the unique ways in which we each experience the world around us – and the more people who participate, the more useful the research will become. 

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