Why a Person Cannot See Something in His Field of Vision

Xi Yu

PureInsight | October 1, 2002

You might be surprised to hear that we are the prisoners of our own brains. The brain is under our control. How could we become the prisoners of our own brains? However, scientists have found that it is true. A group in Smith-Kettlewell Eye Institute in San Francisco discovered that we only see what our brains allow us to see. People often “look without seeing” even when the object is within the field of vision.

As reported in issue 414 of Nature the subjects in this study were shown some spinning blue spots with a background of stationary yellow spots. However, all yellow spots “disappeared” from the vision of the subjects. Those yellow spots were made invisible not by the computer, but by the brains of the subjects themselves. The yellow spots were still on the screen, but people simply did not see them. The article suggests that our brains hold notions about how the world should be. Based on these notions, the brain will determine what we should and should not see. In this experiment, subjects were shown both the spinning blue spots and the stationary yellow spots, but their brains only allowed them to see the blue spots. This phenomenon is called “motion induced blindness.”

Researchers believe that this happens in our daily life, but we simply do not realize it. For example, when driving on a highway with many car lights, a driver often ignores the tail light of the car in a side lane.
We all believe that what we sense through our sensory organs is real. We accept what the brain processes from our sense organs as true. From this study, we know that this notion is not true. It is our brain that determines what we can and cannot see. Then who determines what our brains “see”? Who tells our brains in advance how this world should be?
In fact what our eyes can see is limited. Our eyes can only sense visible light with wavelengths from 312 nm to 1,050 nm. On both the macroscopic and microscopic levels, all we can see is only a tiny part of the universe, and objects that enter our vision can only be seen after screened by our brains. Our cognitive ability is restricted by the limitations of our sensory organs. A paper published on May 17, 2002, in Science magazine reported that a six-month-old infant has a greater ability to distinguish between the faces of a man and an animal than a nine-month-old infant does. What is more, a six-month infant can distinguish differences between languages, while a nine-month-old infant can only distinguish differences within his/her language. We all believe that our abilities are acquired during the education process after birth, but actually some truly amazing abilities are gradually lost after birth.
We know there are many records in both Oriental and western culture about people’s supernormal abilities. Today these reports are considered myths. However, we can observe the regression of human abilities, such as the regression of the abilities of a six-month-old infant to those of a nine-month-old infant. Because we have a pair of flesh eyes and a brain governed by notions of how this world should be, we cannot see the true picture of our own world. Returning to the original true self is the path to understanding the mysteries of life.


1. Bonneh, Y.S., Cooperman, A., and Sagi, D., “Motion-induced Blindness in Normal Observers,” Nature, # 411, 798 - 801, (2001)
2. Pascalis, O., de Haan, M., and Nelson, C.A., “Is Face Processing Species-specific During the First Year of Life?” Science, 2002, 296 (5571), p. 1321-3.
Translated from http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2002/8/23/18251.html

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