We do not perceive the world as it really is or as we expect it to be, but somewhere in between, say researchers.
In a study, 90 participants were tested across four experiments, and asked to report on the timing of the last event in a regular sequence of beeps or flashes.
The results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that humans perceive time somewhere in between reality and our expectations.
These findings suggest that the brain continuously updates the probability of encountering future stimuli based on prior experiences.
“Our brain relies on past events to predict what will happen next. These predictions are essential to survival because they allow us to react faster to the environment around us and plan what actions to perform,” said one of the researchers Max Di Luca from the University of Birmingham in England.
“Our perceptions are also affected by these predictions; they are the result of the combination of our expectations and actual sensory information. We don’t perceive the world as it really is, or as we expect it to be, but somewhere in between,” he explained.
“Imagine a bad musician playing a cover version of one of your favourite songs. You have an expectation of which notes to expect and when to expect them. Even when poorly performed, your expectations will help ‘soften the blow’ and make it sound relatively better,” Di Luca noted.
“However, if you were listening to them play a song you had never heard before, you would have no real expectations and so every mistimed note would be evident,” he pointed out.
The researchers believe that the conclusions that can be drawn from this research can be applied to several technological domains.
“Knowing how the brain predicts the world can be used to teach robots how to behave and think in a way similar to humans, for example,” Darren Rhodes from the University of Sussex said.