Summer SAVY 2016 (Session 1, Day 4) – In the Mind’s Eye: Truth vs. Perception
Today was a lively on for the Truth Vs. Perception class! One highlight was the midday visit from a magician (or is it illusionist?), who showed us a few mind-boggling card tricks. In keeping with all the work they have been doing this week interrogating perception, the students were very alert to his technique. Even so, we were all pretty amazed by the effects our visitor was able to produce! This visit helped frame a discussion of perceptual blindness, the phenomena whereby our brains fail to take in unexpected stimuli that is in plain sight. One famous example that we looked at is called the Monkey Business Illusion. You can take a look at it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY. We talked about some of the possible real world implications of this kind of perceptual quirk—because people believe they are focusing, they may not realize what they have missed. This explains why, even when they are trying to be attentive and follow driving rules, drivers talking on their cell phones are more likely to have accidents.
An overarching topic of today’s lessons was the concept of bias. Students were alert to the ways in which people’s preconceptions can shape their perception of truth. We put this in a historical context by looking at Christopher Columbus’s voyage log and looking at the rhetorical techniques he uses as he describes his encounter. We also traced the concept of bias through historical propaganda, looking at the way visual cues and rhetorical suggestions can turn images into implicit arguments. Students practiced their understanding of the subtle nuances of implicit bias by creating imaginary news broadcasts (about escaped zoo animals and a change to the school lunch policy) and shaping their stories through the way in which they presented the facts—groups on both sides of each issue had to present the same information and could not add new facts. One group described the “liberated” zoo animals, while the other talked about the “disastrous” escape of “savage” animals—without changing the story itself, they painted very different pictures of the truth!
I can’t believe the session is already coming to a close! I am looking forward to another day of activities and discussion, but it will be sad to see the end of the week! I look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow!