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Open-minded people have a different visual perception of reality

What is it about a creative piece of work such as a painting or music that brings us feelings of awe and wonder?

Is it the thrill of being shown something new and different? Something the artist saw that we could not?

As Pablo Picasso put it:

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

Recent research has suggested that open-minded people — those who regularly experience wonder and awe — actually see the world differently. Open-mindedness makes them more likely to experience certain visual perceptions.

Check out the video below where we explain this phenomenon. Or keep on reading if you prefer not to watch the video.

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The research was published in the Journal of Research in PersonalityThe researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia recruited 123 volunteers and gave them the big five personality test, which measures extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.

This last personality trait involves being creative, imaginative and possessing a willingness to try new things.

They then tested who experienced a visual perceptual phenomenon called “binocular rivalry”. This happens when each eye is shown a different image from having red and green patches over each eye. The result is having different images being displayed to each eye.

Most people will switch back and forth between the two incompatible images, as the brain struggles to perceive the two images at the same time.

However, people who scored higher on openness were more likely to merge the two images into a unified red and green patch.

This makes sense. Creative people combined the two images as a “creative solution” to the visual conflict they were experiencing. They did this sub-consciously, without effort.


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Anna Antinori was the lead researcher and explains that we’re constantly filtering out what sensory information to focus on. She says:

“The ‘gate’ that lets through the information that reaches consciousness may have a different level of flexibility. Open people appear to have a more flexible gate and let through more information than the average person.”

This phenomenon also happens when people experience “inattentional blindness”. This is when people focus so hard on one feature of a movie scene that they fail to notice something completely obvious, such as in the video below (try it now before we reveal what happens below):

Around half of people are so busy watching the ball that they miss the man in a gorilla costume.

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Though the research suggests that personality affects the way we conscious process our experience, it’s not entirely clear how this process works.

The authors of the study speculate that overlapping neurochemicals in the brain may link perception to personality.

There is also research that open-mindedness isn’t fixed. One study has shown that meditation can improve binocular rivalry, and people can be trained to be more open to new experiences.

There’s also research that shows that psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms) makes people more open.

While the mechanics behind creativity and open-mindedness are not completely known, it’s clear that there are methods for changing how we see the world.

If you want to get started with meditation, we’ve got you covered. Check out these articles on how to meditate:

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Notable replies

  1. I think a good exercise to be more open minded is a 30 day mental cleanse. A mental diet in which you avoid altogether, your chosen alternative realities. (Sports, tv, political discussions in which you seek a chemical payoff, discussions about cars if you’re a car guy . You get the picture).
    Leave your comfort zone and something new will catch your attention. The reward of learning new things will create new neural connections.

  2. You got me thinking… I wonder what I would give up in a 30 day mental cleanse? I think I’m addicted to the rush I get from coffee. It would be interesting to give that up for 30 days. Another thing to give up would be Tinder. It’s addictive as a single guy to always have access to new interactions. Giving that up would result in some behavioral changes.

  3. This has always been my problem; I grew up needing to see the world in a much broader way. My education was reading Science Fiction, and I was always looking for the world and people from the stories I read. The people I met, the people I worked with, were not interested in my world or how I saw it.

    It was not until very late in life, after Lori passed and I had two children and 3 grandchildren that I discovered my creativity. I can create ideas for my stories that are better than anything in the real world or the unimaginative movies we see. There are some life experiences that people have that is awe-inspiring, the world is big, so a lot happens. My advice is to listen to your creative thoughts and write them down. Find ways to stimulate them, music, travel, even your job, look for reasons to be creative.

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Written by Justin Brown

I'm the CEO and co-founder of Ideapod, a platform for people to connect around ideas. I'm passionate about people thinking for themselves, especially in an age of information overload.

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