This was an interesting read, as it intersects with my personal thoughts based on my experience studying how people work and how people perceive the world around them. In a nutshell, our senses are much stronger than we give them credit for, and our basic human ability to deal with the world around us is based on what we pay attention to.

Oscillatory Thoughts: We are all inattentive superheroes

This article corroborates what I have learned, that people are constantly deleting, distorting and hallucinating most of their experience based on their limited attention to detials and the power of human mind to “fill in details” for understanding. In fact, the details are extremely rich in our senses, yet our prior experience, mood, thoughts, etc., create filters and bias in our ability to actually process that information, and make sense of it for ourselves.

Last night I was in a discussion with some people and we were talking about people’s inability to see things. It’s not that they cannot see, it’s that they don’t see, based upon their preconceived beliefs and prejudices about any particular situation. (in this particular situation, it was how parents were not realizing how they were causing pain for someone because of  their (the parents) disapproval of  the amount of time this person engaged in the activities to avoid more harmful behaviour).

To me, this is a matter of paying attention, of achieving more mindfulness and consciousness in any given situation. While obviously no one can be completely mindful in all situations, achieving more mindfulness in daily life is, I feel, a good thing. It does help one to recognize their own bias, and potential for those deletions, distortions and hallucinations we are all so prone to.

Following on, I watched this TED talk by Eli Pariser, who informs us about search sites tailoring their results based on data they have collected about our previous searches and meanderings around the web.

Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

Given what was mentioned above, one can see the potential danger in having a 3rd party present information to us that may cause us to unconciously invoke our personal filters on top of the filtering and sorting the search site is giving us. One can be led to the conclusion that the search results present the most complete picture of what is out on the web as possible, where in fact they are giving us what they think we want to see based on our history.

While this may be a boon in some cases (perhaps many cases, I don’t know), it is a detriment in other cases, as we may want to gather information without this “personalization” that the search company is giving us. It can blind us to information we may, in fact, really want and need in order to be informed, make informed decisions, and so on.

As humans are wont to grasp onto initial meanings for what they perceive, and those meanings are hard to change once set, this can be a vital flaw for anyone conducting research on the web. It feeds our confirmation bias and existing prejudices.

A few modern browsers allow for an “icognito mode” – where the browser doesn’t reveal any history or information about the user. It may be interesting to conduct a side-by-side search to see if, in fact, you are getting different results back.