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The Images We Carry: Why The Brain Prefers Certain Visual Data

Our intuitive process of storing mental images resides outside our control, and perhaps with good reason.

Timothy Ryan, PSFK Labs
Timothy Ryan, PSFK Labs on February 11, 2011. @timjamesryan

The familiar file extensions .jpeg and .png, represent millions of pixels compressed into a more efficient format, reducing an image’s size with no apparent loss in appearance. The full set of original pixel values would take up too much space on a computer and require too long to transfer between networks. File extensions become a necessity.

Similarly, the images captured by our retinas are in the order of mega-pixels, and our brains have a finite capacity for storing memory. As a result, it must be selective with which images it retains, preferring sharply curved or angled images over the flat or softly rounded ones. And while computers may outperform humans in terms of capacity, our intuitive image selection process has its benefits according to neuroscientist Ed Connor.

“Computers can beat us at math and chess, but they can’t match our ability to distinguish, recognize, understand, remember, and manipulate the objects that make up our world.”

Our natural ability to condense information to a tractable level may be the best compression algorithm around.

Johns Hopkins Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute

[via Innovations Report]

Image by Reigh Leblanc

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