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See into the Future

I knew it. I can see into the future and so can you. Here’s how and why this phenomena explains why optical illusions trick us.

Researcher Mark Changizi of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York says it starts with a neural lag that most everyone experiences while awake. When light hits your retina, about one-tenth of a second goes by before the brain translates the signal into a visual perception of the world.

In this so-called Hering illusion, the straight lines near the central point (vanishing point) appear to curve outward. This illusion occurs because our brains are predicting the way the underlying scene should look in the next moment.
CREDIT: Mark Changizi, RPI.

Changizi now says it’s our visual system that has evolved to compensate for neural delays, generating images of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future. That foresight keeps our view of the world in the present. It gives you enough heads up to catch a fly ball (instead of getting socked in the face) and maneuver smoothly through a crowd.

When you really dig into why optical illusions work, it’s your brain compensating for that lag and anticipating, assuming and predicting what happens (or should happen) next.

This has more meaning for me than most though.

As someone gifted with an Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD which I do view as a gift) and the father of an ADD daughter and a 13 year old son with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD and more gifted than I), I’ve come to learn that one reason for this ‘syndrome’ is a lag in the cerebellum caused by reduced blood flow in the prefrontal cortex.

One thing the three of us share is the ability to see things that other people don’t see and other advantageous attributes: associations between seemingly non-associated things (i.e., connecting the dots); an inability to block input thus causing us to take everything in to our brains; and a frustration with linear and serial anything, compelling us to find ways around obstacles and barriers and cut-to-the-chase.

The trick for non-ADD/ADHD people is to place yourself in positions to take it all in and not turn it off. Let yourself be inundated with information, frustrated with process and procedure, and you’ll find yourself seeking those spaces and solutions that connect dots. It’s worked for many people I know and they’ve then felt the benefits of the gift I feel ADD and ADHD is for my kids and I.

Just for grins, take a look at probably the best compilation of optical illusions on the ‘net and you’ll find your brain hurting after just a few!