Color is the simplest sensations the brain has. But even at this most basic level we never see the light that falls onto our eyes or even the real-world source of that light. Rather, neuroscience tells us that we only see what proved useful to see in the past. Illusions are a simple but powerful example of this point.
Like all our perceptions, we see illusions because the brain evolved not to see the retinal image, but to resolve the inherent ‘meaninglessness’ of that image by continually redefining normality, a normality that is necessarily grounded in relationships, history and ecology. Which is why we innately find regularities in information and reflexively imbue those regularities with value. But it is the value, not the information itself we see. So, when you open your eyes and look “out into” the world, don’t be fooled. You’re in fact looking in. You’re not seeing the world; you’re seeing a world… an internal map of value-relations derived from interactions within a particular, narrow context.
In this interesting presentation, Beau Lotto’s color games puzzle our vision, but they also spotlight what we can’t normally see: how your brain works – and reveals how evolution tints your perception of what’s really out there.
This is another short clip questioning how you know what you’re seeing is real: