Us and images: How do we see the world?
The world of infographics and visual content that we love requires that we get into some mental processes that we perform when we relate to what we observe. Because, how do we imagine a set of elements after just seeing a picture?
Alberto Cairo says: “Sensory properties are not intrinsic of objects, plants and animals, but they’re attributes that our brain makes depending on how these objects, plants and animals affected the evolution of our ancestors. Perception (…) is an active process; cognition, the act of recognizing our environment and sensing how to take advantage of its properties for own benefit, is as well. “
According to Cairo (2011) in his book El Arte Funcional, various intellectuals in the fields of neuroscience and psychology have been studying these phenomena. In Chapter 10 (“Imágenes en la mente” or “Images in the mind”), the author asks: How does the brain complete such a feat: infer from a scheme that is before the representation of a real, three-dimensional object?
His research draws from an amazing capacity of the human brain: the capacity to recognize abstract figures. To illustrate this procedure, he demonstrates how we can recognize a “human face” even though its individual traits have been deleted:
Thus, no matter if the most private of human footprints is erased, we will be effortlessly interpreting that it’s a human figure. Then he explains that cognitive psychologists present an interesting dialogic process between the “bottom-up”, the “top-down” and the combination of different types of “memories” that we put into play unconsciously.
And raises an example to give us access to the idea:
“In another famous example, psychologist Sir Francis Galton (cousin of Charles Darwin) asked certain subjects in a study what they had eaten for breakfast; he discovered that most of them (…) visualized the table where they had eaten to recall the objects and food that were on it.”
Later, he rescues the theory of Smith and Kosslyn (2007) about the existence of three groups of models that explain how the brain recognizes objects. These are identification by characteristics, components and by configuration. In turn, these models are related often in complementary forms.
– Identification by characteristics: sometimes it is not necessary for every little detail to be visible, but it’s enough for some key features to be present.
– Identification by components: is based on the fact that the human brain seems to keep structural descriptions of what it perceives: regardless of the angle at which one sees a mobile phone, it will be able to recognize it because it has a small screen, keys, etc.
– Identification by configuration: in this case, the most important things are the individual configurations. This explains why we are so quick to identify the character of a well-made cartoon (the individual traits are exaggerated).
Thus, the author tries to highlight the mechanisms by which we access the “thinking by images” to approach a clearer idea of how it is shaping our perception of visual content. Or in other words, he tries to get us closer to the world of perception.
Faced with this arduous research, we must ask ourselves: Every time we make a new INFOGRAPHIC … are we considering how we access and experience the world and how we’d like to see?