Our sensory perception, especially vision, he says, is a figment of our imagination.
"What you're experiencing is largely the product of what's inside your head," says psychologist Ron Rensink at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
"It's informed by what comes in through your eyes, but it's not directly reflecting it."
Our vision can only capture a tiny percentage of the visual field in full colour and detail at any one time. A greater percentage is just a fuzz and one colored.
Just as in a movie, we see everything in a continuous flow. But also, just like a movie film, where each frame is illuminated and projected onto the screen, our eyes act the same – with those jerky eye movements called saccades which happen about 3 times a second and last up to 200 milliseconds, our visual system grabs a bite of high-resolution detail which it somehow weaves together to create an illusion of completeness (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol 12, p 466). This is why we don't notice anything amiss – just like a movie indeed.
How our brain exactly weaves such fragmentary information into the smooth technicolour movie that we experience as reality is still a mystery. Rensink says it might be that the brain makes a prediction. "We create something internally and then we check, check, check," says Rensink. "Essentially we experience the brain's best guess about what is happening now."
It takes several hundred milliseconds for any visual information to travel down the optic nerve and be processed by the brain. But by then the vision or visual field has already changed. And so the brain makes a prediction about what the world will look like about 200 milliseconds into the future, and that is what we see. Without this future projection we would be unable to catch a ball, dodge moving objects or walk around without crashing into things.
Pretty exciting tool we got here, but this also creates somewhat of a huge hole in the visual system that can render us oblivious to things that are supposedly unmissable.
For reasons that remain unknown, most people are unable to keep track of more than four or five moving objects at once. This can lead our visual system to be oblivious to things that are staring us in the face.
A graphic or perhaps exaggerated example of this is a scene in one of the many horror movies, wherein a woman does not notice that she was already face to face with a devilish creature that moves at a blurring speed.
Made Up Memories
Lawton wrote that one of the most important components of our self-identity – our autobiographical memory – is little more than an illusion.
We remember vivid childhood memories, pleasant or otherwise, as if it happened only yesterday.
And like a recorded movie, we can play this memory over and over in our head so easily, beleiving it is real. Only to find out as we grew older that certain details, such as color, shape, or size, and certain events itself, were inaccurate.
Psychologist David Gallo of the University of Chicago says that “memory isn't like a video recording - it's reconstructive." The collection of snapshots known as "autobiographical memory" is not a true and accurate record of your past - it is more like a jumble of old diary entries, photographs and newspaper clippings.
In other words, one of the most important components of your self-identity - your autobiographical memory - is little more than an illusion.
Over the past three decades psychologists have gathered evidence from false-memory research, where they deliberately plant fake memories into people's heads.
Gallo says that everybody's memory is susceptible to some extent. "You cannot remember everything so your mind summarizes and remembers the gist of experiences. You form associations and draw inferences. That gives memory great power, but it comes at a cost."
So, doesn’t this make you wonder how often this happens in real life? In this case, there is evident pssibility that sinister forces can “suggest” thoughts or memories into whomever they wish.
According to Kimberley Wade, a memory researcher at the University of Warwick in the UK, the illusory quality of memory can also be seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Memory is no longer conceived as being exclusively about the past, but as part of a generalised "mental time travel" module that allows us to construct and test future scenarios based on past experience.
How real is free will?
The notion that we have free will -- the ability to exercise conscious control over our actions and decisions -- is deeply embedded in human experience. But the more we learn about the physical universe and the human brain, the less plausible it becomes.
The universe, including the bits of it that make up our brain, is entirely deterministic. The state it is in right now determines the state it will be a millisecond, a month or a million years from now. This therefore argues that free will cannot exist.
Around 30 years ago, psychologist Benjamin Libet discovered that if people are asked to make voluntary movements, their brains initiate the movement before they become consciously aware of any intention to move. Leading many neuroscientists to conclude that free will is an illusion.
It seems that the sense of, or conviction that even though we did one thing, we could have done another, and that at any given moment we have free choice of any number of actions, is an elaborate illusion created by the brain. This leads us to conclude that perhaps, nothing is really what they seem to be.