Thursday, 15 May 2014

How we process information

I was going to talk specifically about Visualisation this week but thought it might be useful to take a step back and understand a bit more about how our brains process information and then next week we can build on this. So basically...

Information is received to the brain using our five senses, sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell and how we process and use this information can affect our state, physiology and behaviour.  In order to make changes in how we communicate and understand others it is useful to understand an overview of how we as human beings make sense of the world around us and how we construct our own reality.

It is said that our brain receives anywhere between 2 million to 14 million bits of information through our senses every second.  Whichever figure is true it is a staggering amount of information and if we were to take it all in consciously it would drive us mad!  So what happens to all this information?  Well, according to memory theorist (George Miller), we can only consciously process 7 +/- 2 bits of information at any given moment.  So in the speed of a second, the mind has to compress (lets go for the bottom amount...) about 2 million bits of information down to 7 +/- 2 bits of information.

In order to make sense of this enormous difference (two million down to seven) our brain takes the information that is coming in through our senses and starts to delete it, distort it and generalise it by filtering it through our experiences, values, beliefs, physiology, etc.  This allows us to them make an internal representation of the world around us which makes sense to us and gives us a state of mind that can change our physiology and affects our behaviour.  All this happens in no particular order and only takes a fraction of a second and it means our language can affect our attitude just as easily as our physiology can affect our behaviours.


So what does this all mean - well the world we experience is not external to us it is the world we have created inside us - our own perception of reality.  As we all have different sets of filters (different experiences, values, beliefs, physiology etc.), we all have our own unique perception of the world.  This helps us explain how two people can be part of the same event, training etc and report completely different experiences of it. 

We need to be able to delete, distort and generalize the events we consciously take in, otherwise we would feel overloaded.  Another side to this is that our subconscious can take in 40 pieces of information and so it is always worth listening to your 'instincts' as this is normally coming from your subconscious which is using more information to reach a conclusion - however remember it has to still filter the information through your own filters!

A quick overview of what Delete, Distort and Generalise mean in this context.

Delete This is when we omit data or selectively pay attention to certain parts of our experience and not others.  Think of a time when you were so engage in a conversion with someone that you were unaware of other events going on around you.

Distort – This is when we can change the information around us to fit what we expect or believe.  Do you remember a time when you where looking for your keys and not seen them because they weren’t where we expected them to be.  Someone else helps you look for them and finds them instantly, ‘but I looked there’ we say not realising that we have experienced a distortion in our sensory information!

Generalise – This is when we put ideas, people or things into a convenient group or category.  We may generalise that all swans are white, until we come across Australian swans – which are black.


By making small changes to our thoughts (internal representation), our emotions (our state) and/or our body (physiology), you can make a big difference in your behaviour and therefore your outcome. 

You can change one or all three and start in any order.  They are all linked neurologically together.

Annie
Live, Laugh, Enjoy