Can't Find It and It's Right in Front of You? Blame Your Brain

You know the expression, "out of sight, out of mind"?

Well, we're actually talking about "in sight, out of mind."  How many times are you looking for something, staring right at it -- and not seeing it?  And no, it's not just that you are losing your mind.

A research team from the University of California, Berkeley, is making new discoveries about how the brain organizes visual perception, including how it leaves things out even when they're plainly in sight. And they've come up with a rough map of the frontal cortex’s role in controlling vision, according to

The frontal cortex is often seen as our “thinking cap,” the part of the brain scientists associate with thinking and making decisions. But it’s not commonly connected with vision. Some people believe that the frontal cortex is not involved, say researchers. Their new research adds to previous evidence that it is, however.

The lack of association with that part of the brain may have to do with the fact that it’s other parts that transform information coming from the eyes into sight and others still that make sense of it by doing things like identifying objects in it.

But the thinking cap of the brain controls and oversees this whole process, making it as essential to how we see as those other areas, researchers add. How that works also accounts for why we sometimes miss things right in front of us.

 “We feel that our vision is like a camera, but that is utterly wrong,” says Dobromir Rahnev, a psychologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our brains aren’t just seeing, they’re actively constructing the visual scene and making decisions about it.” Sometimes the frontal cortex isn’t expecting to see something, so although it’s in plain sight, it blots it out of consciousness."

 Distraction is often the culprit, because it overtaxes the organization of perception, Rahnev says. Three different brain functions are going on all the time in multiple scenarios in our brains while it processes the world around us. But add too much to the pile, like texting behind the wheel, Rahnev says, and “you can run right into a parked car without ever seeing it.”



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