Saturday, April 5, 2008

The human mind: knowing where not to look

"In the 1960s, Lestor Luborsky conducted an experiment in which he used a special camera to track the eye movements of people whom he'd asked to look at a set of pictures. This tracking allowed him to tell precisely where they looked. What he discovered was that if a photograph contained images that the people found morally objectionable, or that threatened their worldview, their eyes oftentimes wouldn't stray even once to those images. For example, one of the photos showed, in the background, an image of someone reading a newspaper, while the foreground contained the outline of a woman's breast. Many of those who found nudity morally objectionable did not look even once at the breast, and when asked about it later, could not remember that there had been a breast in the photograph. It seems reasonable to suppose that some part of their minds must have known--they must have seen out of the corners of their eyes--that something there would disturb them, and so, like Shem and Japheth, they chose not to look. I cannot say whether the decision not to look was made consciously or unconsciously by Shem and Japheth, but it seems pretty clear from the reactions of those who did not--could not--look at all the parts of the photograph that their decision to not see were made on an entirely pre- or unconscious level. The point is that in nearly all circumstances we each know precisely where not to look in order to have our worldview remained unthreatened and intact."

-Derrick Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe

No comments: