With Language, We Could “See” the Invisible

Most people might think that visual helps creating language. That is true, no doubts about that. However, do you know that language could also show us the invisible? Here is the thing. People look at an object and then the nerves in our eyes would send the signals to the brain and the brain would try to find the correct label for that object, that we have memorized before. That is the normal process. But what if we are not sure of the object? Would our brain work its best to reveal the invisible thing? This is what we want to discuss here.

The Experiment
We could see because our eyes collect the light that is reflected by the objects around us. But we have to think that it would be kind of hard for us to reveal the object if the input is suppressed, wouldn’t it? This is exactly what was done by Gary Lupyan and also Emily Ward. In journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they revealed that language plays a huge role in helping take out the information needed from our brain. Vision is important but language could boost our brain performance. Just like Lupyan said, our eyes do not actually work alone because we have other senses we could use.

When brains receive ambiguous inputs, they find it really hard to put the information in context of what we know and expect. Through this study, Lupyan wants to show that language is actually a really powerful tool that could help stimulating our brains specifically perpetual systems. It is said that our vision is also greatly affected and shaped by what we know (knowledge) and also what we expected (expectations). But do you know that even with just a single word, our expectations could be altered deeply?

This fun experiment began with showing every participant a picture of an object that is quite familiar for them. But they only showed the picture in one eye. And because the experiment itself is called continuous flash suppression then Lupyan and Ward started to give the participant’s other eye a series of flashing while still shown the picture in the other eye. They also called this flash as visual noise because it could distract the participant while observing the picture. And this became harder for the participant to identify the object as the input from their other eye was also suppressed.

However, before doing all the things with flash and suppressed input, the participant actually heard one of three things; a pumpkin, a kangaroo, and static. They would hear pumpkin when it was actually a pumpkin, kangaroo when it was a pumpkin, or just static. After the continuous flash suppression was done, the participants were asked of what they saw. When hearing the matched word, it actually boosted the object mentioned into the participants’ vision but when they heard the wrong word, it just hurt their chance to see the object clearly.

The Result
In all means, this experiment puts us into perspective and helps us see that language is actually a really good tool in boosting our brain’s performance. When our vision is suppressed, humans could still use their other senses to help their brain to work its best. Lupyan also thought that maybe if language actually affects a test like this, it just strengthen the indication that language not only boosts brain’s performance but also influence other senses especially our vision at a really early stage. Through this study, it is also implied that people do not have to always rely on certain senses but use them altogether.

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