Can you read this?
I am hoping that you play my game and try to read the text above. Go ahead and try before you read the answer below.
How’d you do? I am betting that you did just fine. Maybe you had some problems with neocortex, or maybe not. Here is the un-substituted text:
How did you read the scramble? Are you aware of how you figured it out? Or did you just “see” it? Do you think there is a rule to the scramble or do you think errors were inserted randomly? Make a guess. As you’re guessing, let me give you some numbers.
Overall the average proportion of changed symbols per word was 61%. That means that on average, only 39% of the symbols in each word were correct. As it turns out, there was a rule. The substitutions were A-4; E-3; I-1; O-0; S-5; T-7; and every N was written backwards.
What does our ability to read text that is not actually there tell us? Once again it re-emphasizes how inaccurate perception is. We are not cameras. I am betting that even if you had trouble with the scramble, you thought that there was a message in there, which on a literal level is incorrect. Put another way, let’s say that you fed this text into an optical character recognition (OCR) program. I predict that gobbledygook would emerge. Once again, that free brain of yours would outperform the most sophisticated, costly computer.
So how come the human brain, the neocortex to be specific, out-performs OCR and speech recognition (speech to text) programs as well? Because so much more than optical signals from the retina (or auditory responses from the cochlea) feed into perception. In this case, we use context – this is a blog about the brain; the lengths of the words, their relative placements, and simple grammatical rules. Non-sensory clues help the brain interpret sensory input. When expectations and sensory input conflict, which goes out the window? The sensory input. Every time.
I want to hear from you. Please let me know:
- Could you read the scramble without looking at the solution?
- Did you think there was a pattern to the scramble?
- Were you aware of what the scramble rules were?
As I wrote in a recent post, I am working on the 2nd edition of my textbook. I will be using this blog to try some ideas out. As a consequence, blogs will be occurring more frequently. In addition I really want – actually need – your feedback. For example if most people can’t read the scramble above, I need to know that. So please comment here, on Twitter, or on Facebook.