What’s in a Name? – Unlocking the Brain’s File Folders

While driving (insights often happen while driving or in the shower… will explain why in another posting) I noticed the car in front of me had a crystal prism hanging from their rear view mirror. Besides having thoughts concerning the potential hazard hat the driver of that vehicle may become distracted by the light from the crystal if it catches his eye, the rainbow from the prism also brought up a lesson about optical/mental illusions. 

Did you know the color brown is a figment of our imagination? How about that the color yellow coming from a television screen is it a reality or an optical/mental illusion?

When my teacher, Greg, first explained this phenomenon, it whacked me on the head like a satori moment. The book-knowledge of how lights combine to form different colors and the knowledge that a TV only produces red green and blue, contrasted with my everyday 3d experience of thinking/perceiving I am seeing yellow objects on TV or brown is a color.  All these years I had ignored elementary science, due to just one of the ways our brains work when, as my teacher calls it, the brain uses the file folder. Looking at the crystal prism and seeing the rainbow of visible light colors in the car in front of me brought me back to this simple reality. The only visible lights our physical (3d) eyes can truly see are the ones within the visible light spectrum, which are shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

So, all other colors in nature are actually figments of our imagination. Our brain may perceive brown, but there truly is no such thing as brown light (according to what our physical eyes can visibly see).  The television is something some may gaze upon for hours in a day. The only true colors coming out of that television screen are green, blue and red. All other colors are simply optical/mental illusions. This fact is most likely over looked, or like in my case simply ignored.

What does this all mean? It means there is a difference between our perceptions (what the brain perceives) and the reality around us. The brain does this subconscious categorizing and files things in folders that are similar to other things that are like it, all the time. As with yellow on a television screen, the brain interprets the yellow but in reality yellow light is not actually coming out of that television screen.

The brain does this as a way to make short cuts, so it doesn’t have to work as hard or store as much information. Eventually after you have met a certain number of people, when you then meet a new person, your brain will instead of setting up a unique file folder for this new person, it will subconsciously categorize them and file them into an already existing personal profile/folder of the base people you know.  This is a subconscious form of stereotyping.

For example, a problem with the brain’s file folders was happening a lot in child molestation cases. The child may have been molested by a complete stranger, but something about that stranger reminded them of a relative or acquaintance (the same shirt, similar haircut, same perfume, etc.) So when they go to explain this experience to their parents or the authorities, innocent people would often take the blame. This happens because instead of the child realizing that in reality the person looked or seemed like this aunt or family friend, they instead say and perceive that it was that person. 

Other examples of our brains file folder trick are found below: 

It deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. 

 The sentence above was intentionally misspelled, but your brain most likely had no problem reading it and understanding its context.

Okay so how exactly can this information help you? To find out stay tuned for the next post…

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