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you can always see your nose — brain, your internal censor


Our hidden censor or the ultimate helper?

Let’s test it.

Can you see your nose?

Without looking in the mirror, of course.

Yeah, you don’t.

But, the thing is your nose is actually in your field of vision, so you could / should always be looking at your nose.

The brain just happens to filter it out. Why? Because it’s the sensory information we don’t need. The ability to ignore expected input is called “unconscious selective attention”.

The brain doesn’t want you to constantly notice your nose or prescription glasses if you happen to wear them. It is not much useful information for your day-to-day functioning.

If nothing is changing with your nose, your brain will decide it doesn’t need to register it. It’s a matter of efficiency.

We are being bombarded with countless blips of visual information all the time, and our brain wipes out everything we don’t need and makes composites of the sensory data to give us useful impressions of the world.

We don’t take mental photographs; we store sensory-memory blips in sensory-specific neurons and then create webs of connections between sensory data blips.

Your brain filters out your nose in a few ways.

One, your nose blocks part of the visual field of both your eyes, so when your brain receives the information your eyes are transmitting, it constructs a whole image from the unblocked information from both eyes.

Two, your nose is in your peripheral vision, so you don’t notice it as much.
Three, it’s so close to your eyes that it’s out of focus because you’re focusing on things that are farther away.

As it turns out, your brain filters out a lot of visual information, not just your nose. If it didn’t, you would be overwhelmed with so much sensory input that you wouldn’t be able to function.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can never see your nose. You can see it right now. Close one eye, then the other. You’ll be able to see your nose on the side of your eye. But when you open your eyes again, it disappears.

The brain is an efficient and calculating machine that continually tries to improve our efficiency. If our brains were less efficient, our bodies would have to eat more. The brain already takes up 20% of our energy even though it only accounts for 2% of our mass.

Sometimes this leads to strangeness, but in the case of our noses, let’s be glad for our limited attention and auto-magic filters.

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