A team of scientists at Zuckerman Institute in Columbia have contributed significantly to explaining a paradox of perception, literally overturning models of how the mind constructs interpretations of the world outside. When witnessing a scene, the mind first processes the details, i.e., lines, spots, and simple shapes, and utilizes that information to create internal representations of more complicated objects, such as people and automobiles. However, when recollecting that information, the mind recalls those larger concepts first and then recreate the details, signifying a reverse order of the processing.
The research, which had involved people and had utilized mathematical modeling, could cast light onto various phenomena that ranges from an eyewitness testimony to autism stereotyping. Ning Qian, a neuroscientist and the principal investigator at Zuckerman Institute, Columbia, states that the order by which the mind reacts to, or encrypts, the information about the world, is understood very well.
“Encoding always travels from the simpler things to the more complicated ones. But recollecting, or decoding, that information is much trickier to understand, massively because there wasn’t any method, apart from the mathematical modeling, to connect the activities of brain cells to a perceptual judgment of a person,” he added further. Lacking any direct evidence, scientists have assumed long back that decoding goes through the same hierarchy as encoding, i.e., one begin from the ground up, developing up from the details. “Decoding, in fact, goes backward, from higher levels to lower ones.”