I want to share this great TED talk I just came across. It’s given by Beau Lotto, a scientist/author/researcher/artist who studies how our brains perceive what is around us. He talks about how the brain recognizes colours and patterns “because in the statistics of your past experience it would have been useful to do so.”
He shows the audience some really neat optical illusions and explains why they work the way they do. Definitely worth a watch:
No one is an outside observer of nature. We are not defined by our central properties, by the bits that make us up. We’re defined by our environment and our interaction with that environment, by our ecology.
What he says makes sense to me. Consider a trip on a roller coaster. We’re scared out of our wits on those things because in our past experience, plummeting towards the ground from 100 feet in the air would have been a very bad thing. The “thrill” of riding roller coasters is the big massive “whew” we feel when our brains realize that we didn’t die from the plummet.
And theatre is the same. When theatre is done well, when it’s right, when it’s perfect, our brains have no choice but to choose the useful route – that is, to believe that what we are seeing is real. Somehow, even though we remember buying a ticket, remember being ushered to our seats, see the proscenium arch, see the lighting equipment, we lose ourselves in the action of the play. It’s right there, happening in front of me, right now.