Sunday, 21 June 2009

Familiar ideas

A quick snippet. Last year I blogged a little bit about the legitimation of ideas (ie by what process an idea comes to be accepted or rejected as valid). A couple of bits on this here and here. Based on the totally non-scientific way I think my own brain operates I believe I (and probably others) have an inherent tendency to try and 'subdivide' new information by reference to concepts I already have in place.

In a stack of books I ordered recently I took a punt on this one. It turns out that I might not be miles off the mark. Berns argues that our brains are constantly trying to act as efficiently as possible, and once something is familiar (or appears to be so) they expend less effort on it. Once your brain has come across an item half a dozen times, the level of brain activity detected when being presented with it again is roughly half what it would be on first viewing. Berns argues that because our brains are seeking to be efficient we do indeed instinctively look for the familiar. It's less effort. He argues that this is why optical illusions 'work', even though we may 'know' that we are being presented with an illusion.

Ho hum.

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