Your brain sees things you don't
A new study published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the brain processes and interprets visual input that we may not consciously perceive.
A researcher at the University of Arizona, Jay Sanguinetti, showed study participants a series of black silhouettes, some of which contained meaningful, real-world objects hidden in the white spaces on the outsides. He and a colleague then monitored the subjects' brainwaves with an electroencephalogram, or EEG, while they viewed the objects. They wanted to know if the brain was processing the meaning of objects that were outside of the silhouettes.
The study participants' brainwaves showed that even if a person never consciously recognized the shapes on the outside of the image, their brains still processed those shapes to the level of understanding their meaning.
To show whether the brain actually understood the meaning of the ancillary shapes, Sanguinetti notes that a peak in the averaged brainwaves, called N400, indicates that the brain has recognized an object and associated it with a particular meaning.
The finding raises the the question of why the brain would process the meaning of a shape when a person ultimately is not going to perceive it, Sanguinetti said. Prior to this research, the opinion was that the brain processes only what we consciously see because of the amount of energy it takes.