Slipping Through, Working Through
Last week, it was noted that retrieval of memories is not a neutral process – it’s not a case that we remember something and then file this untouched memory away again. The present influences our recall of the past, revising pre-existing memories or creating false memories. The retrieval process is active, not passive.
Now, you would expect that vision is a neutral process; after all, our eyes do the seeing and the brain supplies the meaning. But the more we understand visual perception, the more the balance shifts towards the brain. The eyes let the light in and the brain does the rest – it’s more about perception and (as we’ll soon see) perceptions than sensation. Vision is an active process, not passive.
In biological terms, this is similar to the difference between diffusion and facilitated osmosis, between slipping through and ‘working’ your way through, between effortless and effortful (ignoring the detail, regular osmosis can be passive). Diffusion and the two types of osmosis are explained in this short video, perhaps more fascinating than entertaining:
The specific trigger for this post was some recent research that indicated that exposure to gossip affected vision as well as judgement. As noted, vision transcends sensation and perception is, in one sense, just a subset of perceptions (which can be cognitive as well as sensory). Images with negative information were given preference (by the brain) if this information (gossip) was socially relevant, that is, it allowed users to pass judgement. Negative but socially irrelevant information (e.g. broke their leg) did not attract preferential treatment. Can you imagine why we subconsciously direct our visual attention more to those associated with socially negative information?
But there’s a broader issue at play here, with implications for experiential learning and behavioural change. Perhaps novices operate more as diffusers, ‘allowing’ information in and out with little effort or control and unable to operate strategically. Gaining experience can be seen as a way to shift from passive to active, to move from externally controlled (or pushed around) to internally controlling (or effectively self managing).
Diffuse or osmotic applies at the cellular level and can be used as ways to describe (in a non-technical sense) vision and memory processing. In the labyrinthine ‘world’ of experiential learning and behavioural change, can you connect these concepts, and the shift from one to the other, to effortful practice and self management? Is it ever possible to simply slip through to success or do you always have to work your way through the challenges?