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24 E N G I N E E R I N G & S C I E N C E N O . 2 1 9 9 7 Our brains have to make hypotheses about what we think is out there in the
 

Summary: 24 E N G I N E E R I N G & S C I E N C E N O . 2 1 9 9 7
Our brains have to make hypotheses about what we think is out there in the
real world. We hope that these hypotheses are right,
because a mistake could be fatal.
25E N G I N E E R I N G & S C I E N C E N O . 21 9 9 7
by Richard A. Andersen
When we look around us, seeing is so effortless that we think we naturally
perceive what is actually out there in the world. But, in fact, the brain works
very hard at reconstructing its own reality--what we refer to as neural
representation. In the well-known Kanizsa triangle shown above, you can see
illusory contours that are created by the occlusions, the lines, and the little
Pac-Man figures. These "contours," and the perceived variations in bright-
ness lie entirely within your brain and do not exist in the real physical world.
Because the brain is often faced with an ambiguous, ill-defined environment,
it's very useful to be able to reconstruct such lines. Our brains have to make
hypotheses about what we think is out there in the real world. We hope
that these hypotheses are right, because a mistake could be fatal. In terms
of evolutionary pressure, the brain has evolved over time to create its own
reality that meshes with the world in such a way as to enable the organism
to survive.

  

Source: Andersen, Richard - Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology

 

Collections: Biology and Medicine