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Limitations of the brain

Sentis | 2:45


 We live in a vibrant and complex world. Every moment we are bombarded with information, trying to get our attention to function in this complex environment, we rely on our senses, sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. To tell us what is happening around us. This is our perception. What our senses are capable of is incredible.

Did you know our eyes receive over one megabyte of information every second? This is equivalent to reading an entire encyclopedia every minute. We can hear a person whispering from 10 meters away or someone shouting from 100 meters in less than a millisecond. Just one whiff of a familiar smell can trigger a memory from childhood, and our skin contains over 4 million receptors that give us vital information about temperature.

Pressure, texture, and pain. Our senses give us so much information that our brain has developed ways to filter, interpret, and respond effectively. It particularly focuses on things that are dangerous and could harm us. Information that is familiar or important to us, things that could give us pleasure or be a reward.

And those things that are unusual, interesting, or new, sometimes the information our senses gather may seem confusing or incomplete. Our brain then draws on our memories, past experiences, and current feelings to make an educated guess of what might be going on. It fills in the blanks most of the time.

These guesses are helpful to us, but sometimes they miss the mark. Not only may we get some information wrong, but the sheer amount of information available can quickly overwhelm us. We simply cannot process all of the available data at any one time. In fact, of the thousands of bits of information we receive through our senses every second, we can only deal with about four bits at any one time.

Our brains are prone to information overload and blatantly miss important pieces of data. Our experience of the world relies on our perception and attention. Perception helps us by first making us aware of our environment and gathering data on the world around us. Our attention then assists by focusing on the relevant pieces of all the information gathered.

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