Blind Spots and the Secret of the Reticular Activating System

 

Here’s a taste of the kind of seminar I deliver to Silicon Valley engineering managers. I have to get into their heads in the first ten minutes to prove I know something about their minds that they don’t; otherwise, they will dismiss me as a mere HR trainer who is wasting their time.

We think and act not in accordance with
the real truth, but the truth as we believe it.
Lou Tice, coach

Is seeing believing?

Take a moment and read what’s in the triangle below:

It says, “PARIS IN THE SPRING,” right?

Wrong. Read it again.

Isn’t it interesting how easily our mind creates a blind spot to what’s actually there? You see the two THEs, right?

But maybe you’ve already seen this Paris Triangle before. Try this sentence:

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT
OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY
COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE
OF MANY YEARS OF EXPERTS.

Now go back and read the sentence one time and count the letters “F.” How many “Fs” are there? STOP! Do not read on until you have counted the “Fs” in the sentence.

Most people find three “Fs.” However, there are seven “Fs.” Go back and find them.

Still not seeing them? About 50% of people who read this sentence see only three “Fs” even after being told there are more. Isn’t it strange? You can be told that there are seven “Fs” and yet you still can’t see them.

If you don’t believe me, go back and count the “OFs” in the sentence.

Watch this Psychological Card Trick.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvzSiUB6yV0

How does he do it? Watch it again and you may figure it out.

Watch the following video, which has you count the number of red suit cards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7Ec6tTwkqg

Did you see the secret message? Isn’t it interesting how easily we can be blind to something happening right in front of us when we focus on something else nearby? (This is one secret of magicians and con artists.)

The same is true with this Passing the Basketball video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY

For those of you already familiar with this illusion, did you spot the two additional changes that took place right in front of your eyes?

Okay. So what? A few optical illusions, right? No big deal.

Well, it is a big deal, especially if you are concerned about seeing Truth in the world and inside of yourself.

It is a big deal if you go around
unaware that you have blind spots
to the Truth.

Great high-performing people, in sports or business or anywhere else, demonstrate an ability to focus and block out distractions, to create blind spots to everything irrelevant to what they are focusing on.

The basketball video demonstrates that when you focus on something, you may become blind to everything else. This ability to focus is good up to a point.

But there is a down side as well. When you lock on to what you believe the truth to be (or the “purpose” to be, like the purpose given to you to count the number of passes between players in white) that missile-lock can blind you to other important things going on.

This is how magicians work. And it’s how advertisers, media manipulators, politicians, and con artists generally work. They get you to lock on to one thing so you are blind to something else.

When you lock on to one “truth,”
you may be locking out the real Truth.

The fact is, if you want to change, to grow, to get to the Truth, whatever it may be, you may want to consider a few things:

1) How are blind spots created?

2) Do I have blind spots that limit or control me and my imagination?

3) How can I discover my blind spots?

4) How can I avoid creating blind spots that limit or control me?

5) How can I recognize blind spots in other people?

6) How can I recognize when others are intentionally or unintentionally trying to create blind spots in me?

7) How can I get past blind spots and into imagining and creating my life in a free-flowing manner with abundant energy?

Your blind spots may be keeping you
from having spontaneous
and continuing energy
to accomplish your goals.

The fact is, you are probably living only a small part of your potential. You hold these blind spots in the form of pictures about yourself, about others, and about reality. They keep you from doing what you are fully capable of doing. 

Once you understand that, you can take more conscious control of creating your life.

Now let’s look more closely at how the mind creates blind spots.

A truly creative person rids him or herself
of all self-imposed limitations.
Gerald Jampolsky

Your mind has a powerful filtering system that creates blind spots.

Have you noticed how when you read a book and the story fills your imagination, the outer world begins to fade away? You don’t hear the traffic outside or someone calling for you. They have to speak more loudly just to get through to you.

Have you noticed how you can be at a party with everyone talking and you can hardly understand what anyone is saying? But when someone mentions your name, that gets through to you?

Have you noticed how when you fall asleep your senses slowly shut down, your body loses sensation, and then you are off to sleep? Then almost nothing gets through to you?

Our senses take in 11 million pieces of data in each moment, but we can only consciously process up to 40 pieces per second. The part of your brain working as a filter to manage sense perception is called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). [What follows is actually derived from a more complex physical system, but the RAS is a perfect stand-in when there is no need for complexity.]

If the mind didn’t have the RAS, you’d go crazy. Think of all the information coming in through all your senses. The sights, the sounds, the tactile sensations.

Think of all those little hairs on your body. If you focus on any part of your body, you would become aware of the sensation there.

The RAS is a network of cells in the center of the brain associated with waking, sleeping, attention, and focus. It physically filters irrelevant sensory input.

The RAS allows you to focus. It functions like an executive assistant, a kind of censor of what’s not important. It screens out the junk.

The RAS determines what information
gets through to you.

What you Value,
or what you think is a Threat.


As we focus on something important, things that are less important, things that we Devalue, fade away. Important information gets through, whatever we consider valuable or threatening.

This explains why teenagers can be watching TV or playing a video game, and a parent can call them to dinner and not be heard. The Value of the parent’s voice goes down in proportion to the importance of the TV.

This explains why eight people at a large dinner table can have cross conversations with each other and still carry on. As you focus on something important like your own conversation, the others nearby fade because they lose Value to you.

This explains why a new mother sleeps through the alarm clock going off, the jet flying overhead, and the truck driving by, but when the baby starts crying, she wakes up right away. The other sounds are not a Threat so they don’t get through the censor, but the threatening sound of the baby gets through.

What you Value gets through.
What you Devalue gets filtered out.

I knew a couple with a barking dog that kept half the neighborhood awake. The owners were never bothered by it. However, the barking threatened the neighbors’ peace of mind so it got through their mental filter.

But the owners loved their dog and were comforted and felt protected by its barking. They would have no problem sleeping through the night. Their neighbors may also have slept better if they understood that any burglars in the area would be warned off by a barking dog.

Once I worked at a company that decided to move my group to a different building. I was placed next to a service elevator.

You can imagine what that means. All day long, every day, I would hear that elevator opening and closing, opening and closing.

What did I do?

Because I knew about the RAS, I immediately told myself, “That elevator doesn’t matter to me.” When people asked me, “Isn’t that elevator going to bug you all day?” I’d answer, “No, I won’t even notice it.”

And almost from the beginning my RAS screened it out. It never bothered me.

A colleague who used to have an office was now in an open cube. He did not know about the RAS. He was used to closing the door and having quiet.

He would hear me talking on the phone over two cubes away and he would stand up and say, “Mark, you are talking too loud.”

Every sound was a threat to him, so every sound got through.

The key is knowing that you control what gets through.

It depends on how you
psychologically evaluate the sensation.

This fact is particularly important to teachers.

How often do we accuse a child of not paying attention to the teacher? But what if the teacher is not making the history lesson, or math lesson, or science lesson interesting to the child?

The teacher and the course material
fade away.

The child can be looking right at a teacher as the teacher explains something and not get it. (We all have experienced this. We lose interest, our minds wander, the filters kick in because we become interested in our own thoughts or daydreaming. And minutes go by where nothing the teacher/boss/television/ politician says gets through.)

What happens when the child sees no Value in what the teacher is saying?

The child’s RAS screens out the teacher. It’s the teacher’s job to make sure the class material is perceived as valuable by the child.

So the question is, what do you Value in life? And what do you Devalue?

Because now you know that if you devalue important things, they will not get through your mind’s automatic filter.

What do you Devalue?
Could what you Devalue actually hold Value?
How will you know if you are blind to it?

Published in Education
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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Time to get out the Captain Picard meme and change it to, “There are seven F’s.”

    • #1
  2. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    You completely jedi [expletive deleted] me

    I’m completely blown away

    post

    of

    the

    week

    @jameslileks

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Mark Alexander:

    The fact is, if you want to change, to grow, to get to the Truth, whatever it may be, you may want to consider a few things:

    1) How are blind spots created?

    2) Do I have blind spots that limit or control me and my imagination?

    3) How can I discover my blind spots?

    4) How can I avoid creating blind spots that limit or control me?

    5) How can I recognize blind spots in other people?

    6) How can I recognize when others are intentionally or unintentionally trying to create blind spots in me?

    7) How can I get past blind spots and into imagining and creating my life in a free-flowing manner with abundant energy?

    My preference is to work hard at removing the mote from my brother’s eye.

    Edit: I forgot to add that Reticular systems are good. I’m in favor.

    /s/ The Reticulator

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Edited: It appears my comment contributed to derailing the thread. I apologize to Mister Alexander.

    • #4
  5. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    You completely jedi [expletive deleted] me

    I’m completely blown away

    post

    of

    the

    week

    @ jameslileks

    And you haven’t yet heard about the Adaptive Unconscious…

    • #5
  6. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):
    You completely jedi mind-

    I believe the preferred method according to the CoC is [expletive].

    but it was a compliment not an insult

     

    • #6
  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):
    You completely jedi mind-

    I believe the preferred method according to the CoC is [expletive].

    but it was a compliment not an insult

    It’s still one of those words.

    Infinite | Marvel Gif Series - {10} CAPTIAN AMERICA - Wattpad

    • #7
  8. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Thanks, I needed this refresher course.

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Edited: It appears my comment contributed to derailing the thread. I apologize to Mister Alexander.

    • #9
  10. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Would this RAS also what people refer to as the “lizard brain?”

    • #10
  11. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I believe the preferred method according to the CoC is [expletive].

    but it was a compliment not an insult

    The CoC has more than one bullet point. Please note the first one.

    I flagged my own comment.

    Can we move on?

     

    • #11
  12. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I believe the preferred method according to the CoC is [expletive].

    but it was a compliment not an insult

    The CoC has more than one bullet point. Please note the first one.

    The code of conduct is refrain from profanities in the context of a debate

    There was no debate

     

    • #12
  13. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    Fantastic post.  Love it.   Doesn’t hurt that I love neuroscience, but it’s easy reading I wish more people did!

    • #13
  14. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    This reminds me of the newspaper experiment by Richard Wiseman

    Wiseman conducted another experiment. This time, he gave people a newspaper and asked them to count the number of photographs inside. Unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs. Lucky people took seconds.

    On the second page, there was a large message that read: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” Unlucky people tended to miss the message, while lucky people spotted it right away. The self-professed lucky people were simply more observant.

    https://www.inc.com/melissa-chu/want-to-become-luckier-heres-what-you-need-to-do-a.html

     

     

    • #14
  15. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

     

    • #15
  16. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    … and I can only see 5 Fs.

    • #16
  17. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read 

    Mark: You have completely blown me away

     

    • #17
  18. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

     

    I don’t know, but it wasn’t a big deal.  Just edit the comment so people can’t read the naughty words.  I don’t think you’re heart was in a bad place and I personally think we’re all adults here, but I didn’t write the CoC.

     

    • #18
  19. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    TheRightNurse (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

     

    I don’t know, but it wasn’t a big deal. Just edit the comment so people can’t read the naughty words. I don’t think you’re heart was in a bad place and I personally think we’re all adults here, but I didn’t write the CoC.

     

    I flagged my own comment

     

    • #19
  20. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    TheRightNurse (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

     

    I don’t know, but it wasn’t a big deal. Just edit the comment so people can’t read the naughty words. I don’t think you’re heart was in a bad place and I personally think we’re all adults here, but I didn’t write the CoC.

     

    I flagged my own comment

     

    Yeah, but you can edit it, no? Why flag it?

    • #20
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    TheRightNurse (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

    I don’t know, but it wasn’t a big deal. Just edit the comment so people can’t read the naughty words. I don’t think you’re heart was in a bad place and I personally think we’re all adults here, but I didn’t write the CoC.

    I flagged my own comment

    I think the best approach is just to bleep out our own cusswords with asterisks, or not use them at all.

    Or, if we must resort to really strong language, use the words the Babylon Bee podcast plays over cuss words, as in:

    The national debt is a [flowerbed]ing big problem, and if those [pterodactyl] don’t do something to [flowerbed] fix it, we’re all [donkey].

    • #21
  22. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Would this RAS also what people refer to as the “lizard brain?”

    No. Lizard brain is usually the brain stem or the limbic system, not the RAS (which is more a pathway through the brainstem).  The RAS is, however, somewhat responsible for dreaming, wakefulness, and other normal biological functions.

    • #22
  23. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Edited: It appears my comment contributed to derailing the thread. I apologize to Mister Alexander.

    • #23
  24. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

    Duuuuuude, you need to relax. I’m just pointing out the violation and how to fix it. If you want this conversation promoted, it can’t have words like that in the comments. You can edit it and make this post more promotable without making a moderator or editor come edit what you can edit yourself.

    the first amendment protects freedom of speech and press.  Does that mean Congress can censor hand written notes since hand written notes are not speech or press?

     

    • #24
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

    Duuuuuude, you need to relax. I’m just pointing out the violation and how to fix it. If you want this conversation promoted, it can’t have words like that in the comments. You can edit it and make this post more promotable without making a moderator or editor come edit what you can edit yourself.

    the first amendment protects freedom of speech and press. Does that mean Congress can censor hand written notes since hand written notes are not speech or press?

    I don’t see the relevance to Arahant’s point–which was that a post is less likely to be promoted if we don’t personally censor our own cuss words, which is easy enough for us to do ourselves (in some cases, by going back and editing our own comments).

    • #25
  26. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

    Duuuuuude, you need to relax. I’m just pointing out the violation and how to fix it. If you want this conversation promoted, it can’t have words like that in the comments. You can edit it and make this post more promotable without making a moderator or editor come edit what you can edit yourself.

    the first amendment protects freedom of speech and press. Does that mean Congress can censor hand written notes since hand written notes are not speech or press?

    I don’t see the relevance to Arahant’s point–which was that a post is less likely to be promoted if we don’t personally censor our own cuss words, which is easy enough for us to do ourselves (in some cases, by going back and editing our own comments).

    it’s your blind spot?

     

    • #26
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

    Duuuuuude, you need to relax. I’m just pointing out the violation and how to fix it. If you want this conversation promoted, it can’t have words like that in the comments. You can edit it and make this post more promotable without making a moderator or editor come edit what you can edit yourself.

    the first amendment protects freedom of speech and press. Does that mean Congress can censor hand written notes since hand written notes are not speech or press?

    I don’t see the relevance to Arahant’s point–which was that a post is less likely to be promoted if we don’t personally censor our own cuss words, which is easy enough for us to do ourselves (in some cases, by going back and editing our own comments).

    it’s your blind spot?

    Could be.

    Oh, wait. I get it.  Your point is that the Code of Conduct bans cuss words in a certain context but not in others, and this is one of the others, and so there’s no need to censor it.

    Maybe so, maybe so. But it’s still better rhetoric around here to keep words like [flowerbed] and [pterodactyl] away, or at least partially bleeped. I haven’t checked to see what falls under the Code of Conduct, but this does fall under the issue of what Editors are likely to prefer to promote.

    • #27
  28. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

    Duuuuuude, you need to relax. I’m just pointing out the violation and how to fix it. If you want this conversation promoted, it can’t have words like that in the comments. You can edit it and make this post more promotable without making a moderator or editor come edit what you can edit yourself.

    the first amendment protects freedom of speech and press. Does that mean Congress can censor hand written notes since hand written notes are not speech or press?

    I don’t see the relevance to Arahant’s point–which was that a post is less likely to be promoted if we don’t personally censor our own cuss words, which is easy enough for us to do ourselves (in some cases, by going back and editing our own comments).

    it’s your blind spot?

    Could be.

    Oh, wait. I get it. Your point is that the Code of Conduct bans cuss words in a certain context but not in others, and this is one of the others, and so there’s no need to censor it.

    Maybe so, maybe so. But it’s still better rhetoric around here to keep words like [flowerbed] and [pterodactyl] away, or at least partially bleeped. I haven’t checked to see what falls under the Code of Conduct, but this does fall under the issue of what Editors are likely to prefer to promote.

    bingo

     

    • #28
  29. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

    Duuuuuude, you need to relax. I’m just pointing out the violation and how to fix it. If you want this conversation promoted, it can’t have words like that in the comments. You can edit it and make this post more promotable without making a moderator or editor come edit what you can edit yourself.

    the first amendment protects freedom of speech and press. Does that mean Congress can censor hand written notes since hand written notes are not speech or press?

    They killed the carrier pigeon didn’t they?

    • #29
  30. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How often does someone like a post, promote it as post of the week and is reprimanded for violating code of conduct?

    Duuuuuude, you need to relax. I’m just pointing out the violation and how to fix it. If you want this conversation promoted, it can’t have words like that in the comments. You can edit it and make this post more promotable without making a moderator or editor come edit what you can edit yourself.

    the first amendment protects freedom of speech and press. Does that mean Congress can censor hand written notes since hand written notes are not speech or press?

    I don’t see the relevance to Arahant’s point–which was that a post is less likely to be promoted if we don’t personally censor our own cuss words, which is easy enough for us to do ourselves (in some cases, by going back and editing our own comments).

    it’s your blind spot?

    Could be.

    Oh, wait. I get it. Your point is that the Code of Conduct bans cuss words in a certain context but not in others, and this is one of the others, and so there’s no need to censor it.

    Maybe so, maybe so. But it’s still better rhetoric around here to keep words like [flowerbed] and [pterodactyl] away, or at least partially bleeped. I haven’t checked to see what falls under the Code of Conduct, but this does fall under the issue of what Editors are likely to prefer to promote.

    the purpose of the code of conduct is to maintain civility and facilitate conversations

    I don’t believe my ‘controversial’ comment undermined civility or stopped the conversation

    when someone tells me, duuude you need to relax, I find that insulting and condescending and impolite

     

    • #30