Peter Drucker has pointed out that you can only control what you measure. Today we are overwhelmed by numbers, data, and facts. More than 3.7 million patents are registered every year – many in the field of digitalization and medicine. At the same time, not all information reaches us, either because they are not collected, published, or even withheld. The innumerable observations provide different facts, which means that it is up to us to decide what we believe. Since there is always justified doubt about the data, the apparent freedom of expression is of no use. Not only are our own opinions expressed in an aggravating manner, but other points of view are actively falsified and defamed. Too many use the media for the targeted manipulation of the masses. We must learn to deal with the unsettling flood of stimuli, to leave our own filter bubble and to take an interest in other stances. It is not skillful to close one’s eyes: What I do not know I should care to.
Our human data processing is genetically adapted to hunting and gathering. We are programmed to instinctively detect hazards, such as poisonous plants, dangerous animals, and places. We are not prepared for today’s dangers, the simple mechanisms of manipulation: e.g. said is considered done; repetition seem to confirm statements; emotions, especially fears, anchor for a longer time; incomplete alternatives limit reality to themselves. Since dealing with today’s virtual world is not something we were born with, we have to learn to deal with it for the foreseeable future. This article deals with the first hurdle on the way out of the victim role: the conditions of visual perception.
- You can only see when you look
The eyes are on the front part of our head. This means that the gaze falls in the direction, in which we move or turn our head. Most of the 214° of our field of vision, we see blurred. The area, where we see sharply, covers only 1.5°. Everything outside the field of view, we do not see. To make sure that we miss nothing, our eyes move unnoticed across the scenery, i.e. the reality or pictures. For the invisible part, we have an additional channel that attracts our attention, the ears, so that we can direct our gaze in the appropriate direction.
Without looking, we see nothing.
- You only see when you find
Since the mass of data that reaches our eyes is blurred, it is imperative that something attracts so much attention that we focus on it. Interest is aroused by contrasts, deviations, but also uniformity (e.g. when we expect deviations). Contrasts are created when complementary colors, color saturation and different brightness levels appear side by side. This also applies to lines and shapes that break certain pattern. These deviations can appear statically or dynamically in the field of vision. In addition to these spontaneous triggers, we find something, because we consciously search for it, e.g. a certain house in the skyline. However, we do not only find it consciously, but also unconsciously. When we, for example, skim over a text, certain key words are not processed immediately, but only after we turned the page, we feel that we have seen something interesting and scroll back to consciously search for it. These unconsciously detected impressions remain available for a long time but are difficult to activate.
Without finding, we see nothing.
- You only see what you recognize
A good example of recognition are abstract paintings, such as Malevich’s famous painting Viereck (Square) from 1915, in which a black square is shown against a white background. Some will know the explanation and others will simply see a black square. All that remains in our memory is what we recognize in the picture, derive from it, and take away as a memory. This applies to modern art, to business and private life. We only remember, consciously or unconsciously, those things that we recognize or that we can assign to a certain category. The carnival parade and the procession of the thousand warriors in Japan can only be distinguished, if we can classify them accordingly – all the others see nothing more than a large group of people walking in conspicuous masquerade.
Without recognition, we see nothing.
- You only seem when you change perspective
The visual impression is always in competition with the next. If we drive with a sightseeing bus through Paris, then we turn our heads all the time, as there are landmarks everywhere. And by looking at the Eiffel Tower for a longer time, we quickly miss the Seine panorama or the Trocadero. Not until we detach our gaze from a view, we have the chance to see something else. During a trip, one misses so fast many specialties. According to this, remaining in always the same echo chamber generates only the confirmation of what we already know. Only if you leave the filter bubble, you have the chance to learn something new – even, if you run the risk of destroying your own world view.
Without changing the perspective, we see nothing.
Bottom line: The problems of opinion formation already begin with the visual perception that filters our world view before we get into the realm of fake news. On the one hand, vision is not adjusted to the sensory overload, we are exposed to today. On the other hand, what we see does not provide a comprehensive impression of what is happening, since we only perceive a part of the world at a time. If we were able to absorb everything that is presented to our eyes, we would go nuts and become unlivable. For this reason, we should develop a conscious relationship to our perception: We only see, when we look and find and recognize, until we change our perspective. The more people observe a situation, the more descriptions we get – with matching, additional and contradictory insights. In spite of the difficulties of the different statements, all impressions should always be collected and considered, as this gives a more comprehensive overall picture. The same should be applied by modifying the old saying: What I do not know, I care to.