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3 ways the brain creates meaning

Tom Wujec | 6:27


Last year at Ted, we, uh, aimed to try to clarify the. Overwhelming complexity and richness that we experience at the conference in a project called The Big Vis. And the big vis is a collection of 650 sketches that were made by two visual artists. David Si from The Grove and Kevin Richards from Autodesk made 650 sketches that strive to capture the essence of each presenter's ideas and the consensus.

It really worked. These sketches brought to life the key ideas, the portraits, the magic moments that we all experienced last year. This year we're thinking. Why does it work? What is it about animation, graphics, illustrations that create meaning? And this is an important question to ask and answer because the more we understand how the brain creates meaning, the better we can communicate.

And I also think the better we can think and collaborate together. So this year we're going to visualize how. The brain visualizes. Cognitive psychologists now tell us that the brain doesn't actually see the world as it is, but instead creates a series of mental models through a collection of aha moments or moments of discovery through various processing.

The uh, processing of course, begins with the eyes light. Enters, hits the back of the retina and is circulated, most of which is streamed to the very back of the brain at the primary visual cortex. And primary visual cortex sees just simple geometry, just the simplest of shapes, but it also acts like a kind of relay station that reradiate and redirects information to many other parts of the brain, as many as 30 other parts that selectively make more sense, create more meaning through the kind of aha experie.

We're only gonna talk about three of them. So the first one is called the Vental stream. It's on this side of the brain. And this is the part of the brain that will, uh, recognize what something is. It's the what detector. Look at a hand, look at a, a remote control chair book. So that's the part of the brain that is activated when you, uh, give a word to.

A second part of the brain is called the dorsal stream, and what it does is locates the object in physical body space. So if you look around the stage here, you'll create a kind of mental map of the stage, and if you closed your eyes, you'd be able to mentally navigate it. You'd be activating the dorsal stream if you did that.

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