Brain Patterns & Image Making: The 20%

I have a great share for you all this week!  Did you know that what you see is only about 20% made up of the information coming in through your eyes?!  The same goes for what you hear.

I had a great experience at Direct Access, a Landmark Education Two Day Seminar, this past weekend.  Much of it had to do with neuroscience and how the brain processes information.  I hadn’t anticipated having this directly correlate to the image-making field but when Barry, our seminar leader, mentioned these research findings, I had to text my photog husband right away.

20%? That’s it?

It turns out, our brains soak up and store all the information they receive in daily life from our experiences; emotions and attitudes, images, sounds, what people say around us and what we see on TV, etc., even if we aren’t paying attention to it.  Our brains take this information and create for us what it predicts we will see, combined with 20% of what we actually see.

I was floored.

Immediately, I thought “no wonder some people struggle to recognize or appreciate images they see of themselves at first glance, particularly images taken on cell phones and other quick devices.”  People that already have a bent toward a negative self-image, I have noticed, focus on their personal area of dissatisfaction first when they view an image of themselves.  You know what I’m talking about here, I bet you, the reader, do this yourself!

If a dancer doesn’t like her feet, they are always the first things that she takes in when she looks at her images.  It turns out that what we are seeing is not necessarily accurate.  Rather, it is a projection of what the brain has taken in over and over again and then is using to make what we have come to understand as the truth.

Crazy… but also very interesting from an image maker’s perspective!

This must be why, when showing a group of people a set of images, they often all tend to like different images regardless of clear winners (images) in the pack.  It is also why, for instance, a very, very thin person looking at an image of him/herself, may still insist they are, in the photo, larger than he/she is in reality.  This is a result of brain patterns, not actually what they are seeing!!

Then I began to think: in performance, we are seeing and hearing at the same time, but only actually receiving 20% of what is happening in front of us.  We either like or dislike; we are or are not moved by an image/art work/choreography/dancer, 80% based on our past experiences.

What does this mean for expanding our audience levels in the arts in general?

I hope this is a topic that gains more importance over the next months and years, as right now the only thing I can think is that we need, more than ever, to expose, educate and engage our young generation in the importance, joy and love of the performing and other arts.  As churches and religions “get them young,” so too must we artists and organizations begin to think that this is more important than ever. Should our youngsters having access to outlets for full self expression and to be moved and inspired continuously from an early age be higher on all our agendas???

Discuss, people!!

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3 thoughts on “Brain Patterns & Image Making: The 20%”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Recently I was lucky enough to hear Jacques d’Amboise speak about his life in dance and his dedication to teching the younger generation about dance and the arts through founding the National Dance Institute. The arts have always been a vital part of my life, and it would surely be a shame to see the next generation denied such a joyous means of self expression. What can be done? Ideas?

    • What an experience to hear him speak on this topic that must have been!

      Yes this is the conversation I’d like to start having with as many people as possible to start somewhere. Research? Studies? Teaming up with a Neuroscientist for a long term study? Small pilot/community projects, both in at risk areas or other? Larger privately funded initiatives (I lean toward private at this point as I feel if you involve the government it becomes a political thing and then nothing will get done, but perhaps that is short sighted)? Having companies become involved in mentoring program? Have dancers ‘adopt a school’? And that is just off the top of my head..

      Having mentioned government though, clearly the cuts to public education arts classes/programs are extremely detrimental and short sighted. If the brain patterns that are layed down in the early years are to be built upon and strongly.. shouldn’t self-expression be of the utmost importance?

      The phrase that keeps going through my mind… people that ‘play’ together are far less likely to shoot at each other…


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