“Vision is nothing more than the creation of symbols in our head that represent what exists outside our body,” says Michael S. Sweeney, author of Brain: The Complete Mind.
Our brains encode the world to give it meaning. This encoding process happens automatically. People hear a car backfiring and think it was a gun. They hear a gunshot and think it was a firecracker. They feel an earthquake and think a heavy truck rumbled by.
The actual event is thus translated, accurately or not, into a symbol of the event. We react not to the raw data outside us, but to the symbol created in our minds. Both the complex structures of the cerebral cortex and the more basic emotional centers come into play in this visual response. According to Sweeney, “We react to the pictures in our heads instead of to the world itself.”
This tendency to see in symbols works both for us and against us as we try to represent the world in our artwork.
Brain: The Complete Mind by Michael S. Sweeney
Previously on GJ: The Arab Guard
The photo of me doing a street portrait in Fez, Morocco was taken in 2008 by Alan Dean Foster