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The Hierarchy of Perception

by | Mar 25, 2021

One of my favourite chapters I wrote for ERCO (ummm almost 20 years ago now) when we set up their version of a learning Academy was explaining how the human eye works in connection to the brain and orders the things we see. Thus knowing what the eye is drawn to first, second and third down to a list of seven priorities.

1. Movement
2. Human form (people)
3. Brightness / light

  1. Movement always felt natural to me as first in the list, wired into our ancestry would be the need to see a predator or prey at the split of a second. At leisure we see  in saccades not continuous focused vision (saccades being our eye takes in upto 60 pieces of information per second unconsciously – if you have ever flicked through a book really fast and a single word jumped out but you don’t know where because it lost amongst 50 pages and each 500 words!!, then you appreciate how saccades work). So to see movement in your peripheral vision and suddenly turn your head & / eye and focus bringing conscious concentrated vision is understandably “hard wired”.

  2. Human form is most interesting and a subject I could happily talk about all day…but to say we recognise human form from a large distance and under very low light is also “hard wired” and I think part linked to the “savanna preference” (more to come on that).

  3. So brightness and the role of light is the element we can control, the fact “Light”  is so far up the hierarchy of perception gives us real credence to way a space is perceived, how important (or not, think how to hide things in the nocturnal landscape) a surface / a space is interpreted can now be considered and manipulated.


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