Most of the time it feels as though our perception of the world is based on what‚Äôs out there, what psychologists call ‚Äòstimulus-driven‚Äô or ‚Äòbottom up‚Äô processing. But in reality, our perceptual experience is a seamless mixture of both what really is out in the world and what we expect to be out there (so-called ‚Äòtop down‚Äô or ‚Äòconcept-driven‚Äô processing). Tom gave an elegant example of this in a recent post, describing how so many people hadn‚Äôt noticed the erroneous use of the word ‚Äòconservations‚Äô in the Mind Hacks book, when it should have said ‚Äòconversations‚Äô ‚Äì in this case readers saw what they expected, not what was written.
I was struck by a couple of similar examples in recent visits to the gym. On the first occasion I‚Äôd just finished on the running machine where I have to really crank up my MP3 player volume to drown out the loud music played over the public speakers. When I sat down in the far quieter weights section, the volume on my headphones suddenly felt painfully loud in this quieter environment, and so I quickly jabbed the volume down a few notches. I felt such a relief as the music gradually softened and my eardrums were saved. It was only much later that I realised my MP3 player‚Äôs controls were in the lock position ‚Äì I hadn‚Äôt turned the volume down at all. My expectations had overridden the true information arriving at my senses.
On my next visit I proudly grabbed two 14kg (don‚Äôt laugh!) dumbbells for some bicep curls. I‚Äôd worked up to this weight over recent months and considered it my limit. I was pumping away but my left arm was really struggling, which I put down to it being my weaker arm. Still, I persevered and did my usual number of reps. It was only when I went to replace the dumbbells that I saw the weight in my left arm was 18kg! ‚Äì someone had put the weights in the wrong places‚Ä¶ Well, I thought, maybe I‚Äôve not been pushing myself enough, but no, later on when I went to try out some curls with 18kg weights, it was hopeless: when I ‚Äòknew‚Äô what the weight was it ‚Äòfelt‚Äô too heavy!
Anyone got some other examples?