Words, words, words . . .

A recent study by the University of California, San Diego, estimates that the total amount of words “consumed” in the United States – where this consumption is from televisions, computers and other media and does not include people simply talking to one another – has more than doubled from 4,500 trillion in 1980 to 10,845 trillion in 2008. If images are added to the approximately 100,500 words per day we are exposed to, then it is estimated that we are bombarded with the equivalent of 34 gigabytes of information each day. You can read more about the study here.

Some academics are worrying about the possible adverse effects of this deluge of information. The psychiatrist and author Edward Hallowell, an expert on attention-deficit disorder, has suggested that people who spend too much time on their laptops and Blackberrys “are so busy processing information from all directions they are losing the tendency to think and to feel… People are sacrificing depth and feeling and becoming cut off and disconnected from other people.” Other researchers, however, dismiss such concerns. According to Amanda Ellison, of Durham University’s neuroscience research unit: “it is quite difficult to actually overload the brain because it can contain a lot more information than was previously thought.” She also points out that: “There is no one memory centre. Visual information is stored in one part of the brain and audio information is stored in another.”
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Philosophy of Illusions

Thurston_magician_posterResearchers from Edinburgh University have claimed to show that stage illusionists and magicians rely on the phenomenon of “change-blindness” for their tricks. Although we may feel that we normally have visual awareness of an entire stable scene all at once, experiments show that subjects can be surprisingly bad at noticing large-scale changes that occur right before their eyes. In fact, our eyes “saccade” around a scene, very rapidly shifting a very narrow point of focus. Changes that occur during such shifts and outside the narrow range of focus will not be noticed by the subject.

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