More on the looking-for effect

This post is another that was stimulated into being, by the recently pointed out wisdom (on Serge King's facebook post) that "we do not see what we are looking at, we see what we are looking for."

(Reference my post )

There is a recent scientific report that seems to me to directly address this problem, although not exactly in our context.
The scientists were exploring "the cocktail party effect" where a person is able to hear one particular voice's chatter in a room full of chattering people.

They point out that it is our ability to pay attention to specific things, that is involved.

That is, it is what we are paying attention to, is what we tend to observe amongst the chaos of other stuff going on.

The brain tends to "lock onto" the signal of interest, and thereafter it is processed as if it were the only thing happening, thus enabling the perceiver to pick out the desired data among the chaos. However, if something internal distracts the listener and shifts its lock onto the wrong signal, and thus excluding all the other signals including the real one, an incorrect answer or data point will be found. This is part of the "we don't see what we look at…." part of the phenomenon, I think..

And so, in our current context, when there is all kinds of stuff going on, we tend to sort out that which we are looking for, which might actually be somewhere in all that semi-chaotic scenario.

And thus, it may say something more about the perceiver, than that which is thought to be being perceived.

Which suggests to me that to more correctly ascertain the validity of a given item of data, the nature of the perceiver along with the then-current focus of attention of the perceiver, needs to be attached as modifiers to the data.

Although doing this would not keep us from "seeing only what we are looking for" we at least would become aware of what kinds of things could be perceived, along with what kinds of things would have been ignored, in the perceived data.

Jim Cline

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