Psychology of Observation

The human eye makes millions of individual observations a day. The vast majority of these are ignored by the conscious brain, but far more of these observations than we realize are recorded into long-term memory. The thing of it is, we don’t usually realize it. It’s not quite photographic memory – most of us simply can’t recall all these details on demand. But they reside in our minds, nevertheless, allowing us to notice, for instance, when something in a familiar landscape has changed, even if we can’t quite put our finger on what. This is the mind drawing on the stored details relevant to this setting and context and providing us with a comparison that our conscious minds must then endeavor to sort through to determine the differences in our environment. Sometimes, this process can mean life or death.

In my case this morning, it was nothing half so dramatic or critical. It was more a subtle niggling that something about my walk across campus on my way to my office was different. ((The lack of students – all of which are on Spring Break this week – was *not* what my mind was trying to draw my attention to.)) What took me so long was that the change was truly slight – it was the observation that all of the trees now have little buds growing on them, a further sign that spring’s arrival is imminent. It was a delightful observation to make, even if it _did_ take a while for my brain to catch up with my mind. ((And if *that* doesn’t make your head hurt, nothing will.))

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