People who can easily and quickly perceive and use what is radically new always have an advantage. Aside from being “in the know’ and hanging out with other people who are on the cutting edge people who learn how to quickly perceive and adopt the radically new are more likely to survive, and survive well.
Yet, people cling to what is familiar as our brains equate familiar with safe. Granted, we have survived in the environments that are familiar. Yet, there may be better environments and ways to live. Change can happen that can make what is familiar and safe absolutely life threatening.
When Safe Becomes Life Threatening
After hurricane Katrina, questions were asked as to why people who could evacuate failed to do so. Many people chose not to leave their homes when conditions of weather, wars and even domestic violence would seem to indicate that leaving is wise. Our brains have many memories of surviving within our homes and environments, but none of surviving in the new and strange environment that is the obvious logical choice to anyone except the person involved. What is familiar can seem safe even when it is not.
There are perceptual and neurological reasons why we prefer a phrase such as new and improved over revolutionary when it comes to the products and entertainment experiences that we choose.
How We Learn to Perceive Things
Science has discovered that the greater part of perception occurs in the brain as it decodes the impressions it receives your eyes, ears, mouth, nose and skin. For instance, the perception of vision, which is the dominant perception for healthy normal people occurs ten percent in the eyes. Ninety percent of vision happens in the brain as it uses visual memories to decode the impressions of light received from the eyes into meaningful information.
Our brains use memories to decode perceptual information. We began to collect and store this information from the moment we were born. New perceptions build upon past ones. Children must first learn basic shapes before they can master recognizing more complexly shaped letters,
Something that is really radically new is actually difficult for us to perceive as we lack the necessary memories. This explains partially explains why life changing inventions, such as telephones, televisions and personal PCs took a while before being adopted my most people. However, cell phones were more quickly adopted as they were not much different from cordless phones that were already in use.
Babies are known to touch, taste, listen and look at almost anything or anyone they can experience. We use our senses to verify and enhance the information we receive. A crawling baby learns spatial understandings from touch and vision. Babies watch our mouths when we speak, learning how to move their own mouths to emulate sounds. Babies feel and look at things to understand and simultaneously create memories of the experience for later use.
People continue to learn to perceive more variations of color well into adulthood. A similar process can occur as instrumental music and variations such as chords, as opposed to simple notes, can be learned throughout adulthood. When a perception is primarily based on a single sense, the way that color is based on vision and cannot be really heard, tasted, touched or smelled, the learning time for greater comprehension is prolonged. Language is used to convey understandings of lighter and darker, color mixing, hue, saturation, cool or warm, etc.
How You Can Speed Up The Learning Process
You can help yourself learn how to use anything new by using as many senses as you can to explore it. If it’s a new food dish, taste, smell, touch and vision are all used to perceive the food. A new gadget can involve touch and sight, plus sometimes sound. When we meet someone new we see them, hear their voice, perhaps touch with a handshake and perhaps enjoy the scent of their perfume.
Another trick to acquiring a quicker understanding of something new is to create many contacts or interactions with it. The brain experiences each new encounter as a new set of memories. The more sets of memories (encounters) the more comfortable we feel with the person place of thing. The brain can be tricked into perceiving many encounters instead of one prolonged one. For instance, with a new gadget before you read any instructions. Pick it up, examine it, turn it over, put it down, move your attention elsewhere for a few moments, or even just close your eyes and think of something else.. Then again pick it up, look at it, turn it, then put it down and put your attention somewhere else. Repeat this a few times. Suddenly the new device will see familiar and be easier to learn to use.
Our brains are wired to judge any perceived threat with a flight or fight response. Anything truly unfamiliar is perceives by the brain as a possible threat once a person reaches brain maturity at after twenty-six years of age. What is radically new, whatever one lacks perceptual memories of—or similar memories of—seems threatening as the brain has no data to recommend the thing as being safe.
When a new form off art comes along it can be difficult to see at first. Many of the well known Modern Art movements were first considered scandalous, or boorish, silly and even, were reviled by the establishment as not really being art at all! Impressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop and Minimalism are a few examples of art that received little welcome and much derision at first by the established art community.
Obvious is what wasn’t until it became so. Being the first to recognize what is obvious, and the championing it to others is the work of the geniuses in any field. However, those who are prominent in the field have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
When Andy Warhol first showed his works depicting cans of Campbell ‘s soup and Brillo box sculptures the critics and public were unable to see the work as art. They recognized the products, butt the works themselves were reportedly difficult to look at as people’s brains had to learn to see everyday images of products and the media as subjects for art.
While Warhol’s works remain the same as they were, more people now easily see and understand them as art. What changed was people’s brains as the works were shown in magazines, newspapers, galleries and finally museums they became familiar, safe and appreciated as people gained visual memories of the new Pop Art.
Benefits of Being an Early Adopter
While we are comfortable and interested in what is slightly new, or as they pitch in Hollywood , “It’s just like [insert hit film] but different”. What is radically new, or too different is seen by our brains as a possible threat—and therefore most adults are not early adopters.
The benefits of learning how to embrace the new and radical but acceptable media, inventions and art forms of contemporary life outweigh the learning curve of building new perceptual memories. Building new perceptual memories actually builds your brain and ability to comprehend and use more information.
You can consciously override your brain’s suspicions about the radically new through simple tricks to rapidly create perceptual memories. What is new to others can become incorporated into your life with ease.
The people who were the early adopters of new technology, media, developments in the arts and society tend benefit from it most. By finding ways to use what is radically new in their lives they find new profitable investments, create businesses and become leaders in their communities that others turn to for information.
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art. Download a free copy click: Manifesto of Post Conceptual Art– A Painting’s Meaning is Inherent in its Stroke.
Check out the limited and open edition prints in the estore.
Follow her on Twitter at @judyrey .]