From the January 2018 issue

Constrained hallucinations

How the brain uses science to perceive the world.
By | Published: January 31, 2018 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

Seeing is believing. Or is it? In his influential 1950 book The Perception of the Visual World, psychologist James J. Gibson argued that our conscious perceptions come to us directly through our senses. This outside-in notion of perception might seem like common sense, but common sense can be wrong. And as it happens, this common sense description of conscious perception is about as wrong as it gets! 

As cognitive scientists dig deeper into the workings of the brain, they have discovered that the world of our perceptions — the only world we ever consciously experience — isn’t a direct representation of external reality at all. Instead, it is a cartoon world of sorts, constructed from the inside out. According to Anil Seth, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, “Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality.”

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