Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
I don’t remember how I came across this; I think it was a link in the comment section of an article I was reading, but I’m glad I did. He has a theory on perception that I think is absolutely spot on.
His theory is that we perceive the world as though we were in a bubble. We literally see the edges curve in and we see everything in perspective. He points out obvious observations to support his theory; when we look at a road receding into the distance, it is at its widest where we are standing and appears to narrow the farther away it is. It also appears to curve upward in our vision. The same goes for anything else. Closer objects appear larger and objects that are farther away appear smaller.
“That’s just perspective. So what?” you say? Well, we might want to consider what that says about what’s going on in our heads. Lehar points out the following:
The Phenomenon of Perspective
The idea of perception as a literal volumetric replica of the world inside your head immediately raises the question of boundedness-that is, how an explicit spatial representation can encode the infinity of external space in a finite volumetric system. The solution to this problem can be found by inspection. Phenomenological examination reveals that perceved space is not infinite but is bounded. This can be seen most clearly in the night sky, where the distant stars produce a domelike percept that presents the stars at equal distance from the observer, and that distance is perceived to be less than infinite.
Consider the phenomenon of perspective, as seen for example when standing on a long straight road that stretches to the horizon in a straight line in opposite directions. The sides of the road appear to converge to a point up ahead and back behind, but while converging, they are also perceived to pass to either side of the percipient, and at the same time the road is perceived to be straight and paralell throughout its entire length. This prominent violation of Euclidean geometry offers clear evidence for the non-Euclidean nature of perceived space. For the two sides of the road must in some sense be perceived as being bowed, and yet while bowed,they are also perceived as being straight. Objects in the distance are perceived to be smaller, and yet at the same time they are also perceived to be undiminished in size. This can only mean that the space within which we perceive the road to be embedded must itself be curved. (Lehar 2003a, 2003b)
The idea of perceptually curved space is an intriguing one and it makes perfect sense for the reason that Lehar just outlined. We have a limit to our perceptual abilities; we cannot hold a picture of the entire universe in our heads. But we can deal with what’s right in front of us. Perceptually, we make things bigger and clearer the nearer they are to us and smaller and more insignificant the farther away they are. He goes into great detail on his website and provides straightforward, illustrated examples. (Epistemology means “study of” something.)
What I find compelling about this is that it fits a “biggest bang for your buck” framework that one can find in virtually every corner of biology. That is to say, all organisms attempt to get the maximum results with the least amount of effort from their activities, whether it is eating, sleeping, walking, flying, fighting, having sex, hunting, home building or other activities. This perceptual model does just that. By having an underlying perception that bends space into a bubble, while consciously not being aware of that bubble, we achieve the maximum benefits of our abilities with the least amount of effort. Our minds do not have to hold extraneous information about things that are too far away to be importance to us. We are hardwired to perceive things on a graduated scale based on how important they are to us. The unique thing about bubbles is that they hold the maximum volume with the least amount of surface area, meaning that our brain is processing the information in the most efficient manner possible.
What occurred to me as well, is that this bubble perception can also apply to our attention in general, including other people in our lives. People who are closer to us are “bigger” and people who are not are “smaller” in terms of the attention and emotion we give them. A faceless person in the Ukraine who dies a horrible death from an accident in their bathtub will generate little emotion from a person in Northern California, but put that faceless Ukrainian next door to the Californian and the horrible death will seem much more immediate and important even if the Californian had never seen the Ukrainian living next door and only heard about the accident later. Because it was close by, it was “bigger.”
We do this for the same reason. We cannot process an infinite amount of emotional information any more than we can with visual, therefore, we contain this perception in the most efficient manner possible: The bubble. It’s an interesting theory and I think it’s a valid one.