Monday, May 3, 2010

Mind Games

Not long ago I was reading a kids magazine with my daughter. The article that had caught our attention consisted of an exercise, a cognitive test. My daughter was to read a sentence that contained an extra (repeated) word. The test was to find out if she would notice it. When she read the sentence, just as many people do, she skipped right over the extra word. Her mind never recognized the addition. It had an expectation of what was supposed to be there, and it caused her to see something different from the literal words printed on the page. We repeated the same exercise several more times, in between which I would caution her to read what was written more carefully. However, with each additional reading, she continued to skip over the repeated word. She knew from my promptings that she was missing something, but she never could figure it out.

I bet that this kind of mental blockage happens to all of us from time to time, and probably more often than we would like to imagine. We each have deeply preconceived notions of how things should be or how we would like them to be. Call it wishful thinking or blind spots or bias or mental programming. This calls to mind what happens when a video monitor gets burned in when the display continually shows the same thing. After the image is taken away, you can still see a ghost of it permanently engrained.

When we think we have everything all figured out, understood, or under control, beware! We are in danger of missing opportunties because we think we have already seen how the scenes in life's movie play out. We can miss what is actually going on. We can miss the promptings of the world around us that can clue us in to the fact that our view is actually inaccurate or distorted.