Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Words prompt us to notice what our subconscious sees

Spot the dogs <i>(Image: Gandee Vasan/Getty)</i> 

It's a case of hear no object, see no object. Hearing the name of an object appears to influence whether or not we see it, suggesting that hearing and vision might be even more intertwined than previously thought.

Studies of how the brain files away concepts suggest that words and images are tightly coupled. What is not clear, says Gary Lupyan of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is whether language and vision work together to help you interpret what you're seeing, or whether words can actually change what you see.

Lupyan and Emily Ward of Yale University used a technique called continuous flash suppression (CFS) on 20 volunteers to test whether a spoken prompt could make them detect an image that they were not consciously aware they were seeing.

CFS works by displaying different images to the right and left eyes: one eye might be shown a simple shape or an animal, for example, while the other is shown visual "noise" in the form of bright, randomly flickering shapes. The noise monopolises the brain, leaving so little processing power for the other image that the person does not consciously register it, making it effectively invisible.

For the rest of the story: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24035-words-prompt-us-to-notice-what-our-subconscious-sees.html#.UgukNGTFRqk

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