The Weiler Psi

Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics

The Bubble Perception Theory of Steve Lehar


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.

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6 comments on “The Bubble Perception Theory of Steve Lehar

  1. Pingback: Like Sands Through The Hourglass… – Philosophical Quandaries

  2. STEPHAN PICKERING
    May 24, 2011

    Shalom & Boker tov:

    A bibliographical ‘correction’:

    The first quote from Steven Lehar is from pp. 32-33 of his magnificent book, The world in your head: a Gestalt view of the mechanism of of conscious experience (Lawrence Erlbaum Associations, Publishers), 298pp;

    the second quote is from page 186 of his 2006 paper, The dimensions of conscious experience: a quantitative phenomenology, pp. 167-195 IN: Alexander Batthyany & Avshalom Elitzur, eds., 2006. Mind & its place in the world: non-reductionist approaches to the ontology of consciousness (Ontos Verlag), 323pp

    The 2006 paper was originally submitted in June 2000 to Journal of Consciousness Studies — but was rejected by them in April 2001. Their reason? None really stated. In reading the correspondence between the journal and Steven Lehard, one gets the distinct feeling the ‘peer reviewers’ were afraid of him. As they should be. Steven Lehard is a formidable theoretician, who (like Thomas Szasz) challenges the neuroreductionists who study ‘consciousness’ (read: who reject Spirit), which is why JCS so often plays it ‘safe’ when dealing with human incarnate phenomenology.

    STEPHAN PICKERING / Chofetz Chayim ben-Avraham
    Goddess Jew / Epikoros Spiritist

    • craigweiler
      May 24, 2011

      Thank you for the clarification. I did not read the book, but was going from what was on his website.

      I do not understand why they would reject his paper based on a materialist outlook since this theory of perception, while definitely holistic, does not presuppose any dualism. The arguments that he makes do not include any psychic abilities or even rely on quantum events.

      I do agree that the man is a formidable theoretician.

  3. Monica
    May 24, 2011

    Wow.

    Well, I agree with the premise of the body as an android for the person’s self, located in the actual brain. (I actually tend to think of that self as the soul, which is tied through some mechanism into the body–different topic, though.)

    I DEFINITELY agree with the bubble theory as a metaphor. Distances, for psychics, creates uncaring. I actually really like the Internet for that reason. Because you can never tell the physical location of the person you’re talking to, it turns down enough of the psychic reaction so you can react as you to the person (unless you’re a text-based empath\telepath, in which case you have my deepest sympathies).

    However, I would also like to ask if you remember what shape an eyeball is…;p

    (No, seriously. Take a straight mirror and hold it up to the world. Then take a mirror curved inward. That mirror curved inward is EXACTLY how your brain sees your eyeball. So while I don’t disagree with this man’s premise, I do disagree with his theory that optical illusions are caused by an internal mechanism. It’s more likely to be the fact that our eyeballs are, well, balls.)

    Great, great post, though…I’ve never seen the dysfunction between the physical and astral planes denoted so clearly. I’m gonna have to incorporate some of that into my own arguments. 🙂

    • craigweiler
      May 24, 2011

      Hi Monica,
      Yes, the eyes are round and I suppose you can make the argument that the shape of the eye is determining how we view the world. I don’t know enough to speak to that.

      Would you please explain what you mean by the dysfunction between the physical and the astral plane? I’m not seeing that.

      • Monica
        May 29, 2011

        Why a person’s body isn’t connected to their soul. That make more sense? Sorry, I don’t think English has the right *words* for some of the stuff I think up…*sighs* Hate it when I do this, I really do.

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2011 by in Uncategorized.
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