Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 17 February 2017

We met at our usual venue and our thanks go to Barrie for volunteering to take the chair for this meeting. The report on our previous meeting having been posted on our website was taken as read and we moved on to our matters for discussion.

I reported that Peter Wilson’s and the other psychology groups in Wetherby had emailed to tell us that they were going to begin using some of the resources we had given them and to recommend that we might consider using the free FutureLearn website course “Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture” as a resource. Wendy then reported that she had already signed up for the course with FutureLearn, as I have now done, and we intend to report back to the group next month on our opinions of its content and conclusions. In response to member’s questions I then gave a short demo to member’s who were unaware of the technique on how to find the FutureLearn website and how to find the many free video clips about psychology on You Tube and how to download them using the KeepVid Download website.

We then moved on to the main theme of our meeting which was to ask ourselves if our perceptions really reflect reality, which most of us probably assume they do, or are many of our perceptions are really illusory and were constructed by our brains to enhance our chances of survival in our evolutionary past? Whilst such ideas may be thought of as ‘counter-intuitive’, that is, defying ‘common sense’ in everyday terms, carefully constructed experiments by psychologists and neuroscientists have shown this to be the case. We then watched the Horizon programme, ‘Is Seeing Believing?’, and I think everyone was fascinated by the ingenious experiments that were shown to demonstrate how our sensory inputs of all types could be altered by brain processing to become internally constructed illusory perceptions that defy reality.

The obvious question then were both how and why does this happen? One compelling argument is that this has major adaptive value in a competitive environment as when a baby’s brain is pre-programmed to recognise a face from its earliest moments despite being bombarded with other visual cues. As the programme put it having the innate ability to construct meaning from the meaningless as a protection is a valuable adaptive process. As to why such processing happens its important to remember that we are bombarded constantly with huge amounts of sensory data so in order to prevent overload with all this information our sensory and perceptive systems have evolved to process only that which we actually from all this input. It is this processing which the psychologists demonstrate with their experiments.

We will meet again at our usual time and venue on the 17th March and I look forward to seeing you then.

John Moore – Group Leader
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