Seeing is…Feeling?

Can you trust your …eyes?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

A lot of our feelings come from what we see. Imagine how you feel looking at a colorful sunset, or a deep car scrape. But could our FEELINGS change how we SEE things?

Erika Siegel and colleagues at U-C San Francisco think so. They used SUBLIMINAL messages to plant emotions in volunteer subjects. They flashed a trigger image to the participants, shown to their NON-DOMINANT eye only. The trigger image was a scowling or smiling face. The conscious brain doesn’t recognize an image quickly flashed to the non-dominant eye.

At the same time, researchers showed a NEUTRAL face to the DOMINANT eye. The participants then had to say whether the NEUTRAL face they just saw was happy or angry. How did they do?

Not so well! People tended to select happy faces when the secret trigger was a happy face. Their feelings CHANGED how they saw neutral images.

This means that we might not be seeing the world the same way others do. Our feelings may influence what we see.

Oh, hello there, officer! Grrr… Think happy thoughts!