The Reduced “Stumbling on Happiness” Part III. Realism (ch 4,5) – a first short coming of imagination is that it works so quickly, quietly, and effectively that we are insufficiently skeptical of its products.
Chapter 4 In the Blind Spot of the Mind’s Eye.
Our retinas have a ‘blind spot’ with no light sensitive cells, where axons gather to head towards the brain. We don’t walk around with a hole in our visual field because our brains fill in the missing part. Our brains create a similar illusion with memory, the act of remembering involves ‘filling in’ details that we were not actually stored. Everything we take to be ‘real’ in the outside world is actually mostly a fabrication, or interpretation. A small number of actual cues from the environment are combined with our preexisting knowledge to construct our reality.
Chapter 5 The Hound of Silence
The details our brains put in (Ch. 4) are not nearly as troubling as the details it leaves out. We are sensitive to the presence of events, but not to their absence. We note co-occurrence (such as presence of overhead pigeons with being hit by pigeon poop) but not co-absences (not being hit by poop in presence of pigeons), leading us to give false weight to a correlation. We treat the details of future events that we do imagine as thought they were actually going to happen, but we treat the details we don’t imagine as though they were not going to happen. We fail to consider how much imagination fills in, and also how much it leaves out. We imagine the near and far futures with such different textures and intensity that we value them differently as well.
“Any brain that does the filling-in trick is bound to do the leaving-out trick as well, and thus the futures we imagine contain some details that our brains invented and lack some details that our brains ignored..... the problem is that they do this so well we aren’t aware it is happening.”