Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Informed Guesswork

To see something, we need light.

Light must either bounce off an object or shine out of an object and be caught in your eyes.

As the light enters your eyes, it forms a shape on your retina which is interpreted by your brain.

This means you don’t see reality as it is. What you see is your brain’s best guess of what reality is trying to show you.

That’s because sensory input, such as light, is only one half of what makes up your experience of reality.

The other half which shapes your everyday experience are your ideas about how the world works.

By combining raw sensory data from the outside with your personalised expectations of the world from the inside, your brain creates its own version of the world.

Anil Seth, a professor of neuroscience, calls that brainmade creation a controlled hallucination.

According to Anil, your perception is a hallucination because your expectations cause you to believe certain things to be there that are not. Such as with the impossible staircase illusion. And your perception is controlled, because you are hallucinating to the degree that nature has decided is optimal for your survival.

And it’s this controlled hallucination—which all healthy people share—that we call reality.

Optical and other sensory illusions of your environment are nothing new and unlikely to surprise you.

But Anil’s research shows that we cannot only be fooled into sensing a different external world, but also a different sense of self.

For instance, if you think you wouldn’t mistake a rubber hand for your own, guess again.

Not convinced? Check out Anil’s TED talk and see for yourself.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach