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The Ten Most Revealing Psych Experiments

March 10, 2009

As an undergraduate psychology sutdent one of the key learnings in second year is that the brain does not perceive extrnal reality as it is. What the brain perceies is external reality modified in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, ways by our internal state at the time of the perception.

There are a number of simple experiments, that neve fail to work and never fail to amaze, that demonstrate this fact. I found a great article that surveys 10 of these experiments at

The reason I find these experiments interesting as a psychotherapist is the same reason that Freud slips of the tongue interesting. Here is an empirically observable phenomenon that allows us to precisely see the difference between the real observed phenomenon and the phenomenon as perceived; the difference between the two is due to internal influence.

Now there are two potential sources of internal influence. First, there is the limitations of the sensory apparatus and the automatic compensation by our brains. For instance our eyes are not perfect and will miss some details, our brains will fill in these details. Second, and more interesting to me, the observers emotional state also influences what is perceived.


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