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The Gorilla in the Room

A fascinating subject has come to my attention that I would like to share with you. It seems that the brain and eye connection runs deep. Studies were done by people with a theory that when you know something unexpected is occurring, it impacts your ability to see other unexpected events.

It is fascinating to understand that the brain can unconsciously change your perception to meet your expectations using past experiences. Said another way, what you see may be biased by what you have experienced in the past.

We take for granted that our vision and being able to see is virtually effortless. Not so easily understood is how "seeing" actually affects the neurological processes which is somewhat of a complicated mechanism tied to the brain. Supposedly, there are over 20 different areas of the brain where processing visual information received from the retina goes through the optics nerve, directly to the brain.

Think about this for a moment, you know those magicians who try to trick you with optical illusions, kind of, "the hand is quicker than the eye," it has nothing to do with your eyes. Your eyes aren't missing anything, it's your brain that receives the transmission and perceives what is happening before you. Stunningly, this is a viable tool that marketers and psychologists may be able to use to alter perception.

I would like to call your attention to this video that I want you to watch now. Please follow the directions in the video and after you watch the video, I will tell you more about what you saw and how it affected you, it is only 1.41 minutes long. Do not read the next paragraph until you have watched this short video.

I would like to prove to you that most of us have selective visual perception and how influential it is. This now famous video represents an experiment wherein it becomes clear how people who never heard or seen this video before, did not see the gorilla in the video. Adding on to the video and further bringing home the point that most of us have selective visual/mental perception in one area and do not stray from the event at hand; two other unexpected events were thrown into the video. Did you miss them too? It did not matter, past studies indicate that people missed obvious events when focused on something else almost always, even if these events were in context and concurrently going on at the same time! I've done this experiment myself by watching this video days apart, and I still miss important occurrences.

To back up what I originally said about the eye-brain connection, even when we know that the magician, experimenter, or even a scientist is testing us or trying to fool us by telling us what to look for, we may miss something that stares us smack in the face and is obvious going on at the same time. However, if we were told first that it was going to appear, we would spot it instantly.

Here is the really interesting point of all this, visual illusions show us that our vision and brain have the potential to misperceive reality. Neuroscientist Partrick Cavanagh from Dartmouth College states, and I quote, "It's really important to understand we're not seeing reality. We're seeing a story that's being created for us." Even the way the brain perceives color is likely to affect life experiences. Color can even be an illusion created by our brain and our past experiences. People see shades of colors differently. When we are exposed to stimulus that isn't perfectly clear, our brain takes us back to our prior experiences and makes a presumption about reality. Maybe all you dancers out there can think of a creative way to infuse color into your routines to create a visual illusion that fully impacts the audience's perception. And if you would still like to challenge the eye-brain connection, how about creating a routine that is so electrifying that the whole dance experience is not only new to you, but the audience has never seen anything like it either. Thus, you stand out like a sore thumb and will be the dancers everyone else has to try and top! How's that for an experiment?

Perhaps the moral of the story is, let us all broaden our horizons and not be so predictable. Let us use our eye-brain connection to look deeper into situations and not rely on what we already think is "the word." If we realize that we are able to strengthen our minds through our own eye-brain connection, observing what is possible, rather than taking for granted just what is in front of us, we may begin to see and embrace other points of view easier. This gives us more opportunity to grow with added benefits in how to make better decisions that just might make us much less vulnerable to what others want us to believe.

***We have received contributions from individuals who would like to have a dear relative or friend who passed on remembered that loved to dance or was a dance aficionado. We call these memorial contributions. Perhaps you would like to have someone memorialized in this manner. Make a donation and give us their name. We have on our website a yellow brick road to engrave their name to a brick as a memorial to that person. This contribution will assist future generations of dancers and help keep young people more positive and healthy.

Thought of the Week:

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway - Henry Boyle


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website

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