Top Down Processing and Michael Shermer

Another old TED video from 2006, this time with Michael Shermer about belief. He covers some great topics in this, in particular how our beliefs shape our perceptions, another perfect example of top-down processing. A quick example:

If you don't feel like watching the whole thing, here are some highlights:

At 7:10 he talks about how we see happy faces on pictures of Mars, and my favorite, "The Nun Bun." He explains how we're primed to see faces based on our extensive experience looking at faces throughout our lives. Our brains shape our incoming sensory information into what it expects to see. So if anything even remotely looks like the features of a face, we'll see a face. It's very difficult not to see it once you already have.

At about 9:07 in he talks about how to hear satanic messages when music is played backwards. He plays Stairway to Heaven for a few seconds normally; then he plays it backwards and everything sounds typically gibberish. That is until he projects some satanic worship lyrics on the screen as you listen to the backwards version, at which point you can "hear" what Robert Plant was REALLY trying to tell us.

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