Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it. Stephen Covey
In Jonah Lehrer’s book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, he tells of experiments conducted by Frederic Brochet in 2001 at the University of Bordeaux. Appropriately enough, the experiments involved wine. In the first one, Brochet took two glasses of the same white wine, colored one of them red with food coloring, and proceeded to get the observations of 57 wine experts.
I can just see them sniffing, swirling, and sipping with an air of sophistication and culture, can’t you? The experts described the “red” wine in terms of its “jamminess” and other knowing, red wine terms. Not one of them actually identified it as a white wine.
In another test, Brochet took the same medium quality Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One was labeled as a fancy, fine wine while the other was labeled as a nothing special, table wine. The wine experts gave the exact same wine in the different bottles contrasting ratings. The wine in the expensive bottle was described as “agreeable, complex, balanced, and rounded” while the identical wine with a cheap label was “weak, short, light, flat, and faulty.”
What these wine experiments illuminate is the omnipresence of subjectivity….Our human brain has been designed to believe itself, wired so that prejudices feel like facts,opinions are indistinguishable from the actual sensation. If we think the wine is cheap, it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a Grand Cru, then we will taste a Grand Cru.”
He explains that the taste of the wine, like everything, is more than the sum of our senses, and what we experience isn’t what we literally sense. Our experiences are the interpretations of sensations by a subjective brain which factors in beliefs, biases, memories, and desires every time. (see post: My Reality Is Not Your Reality)
Lehrer goes on to say that even if we could experience the wine exactly as it is, without subjectivity, we would still all experience it very differently because each of our brains are unique on a cellular level and the part of the brain which interprets taste and smell is extremely plastic or changeable and is forever growing and pruning neurons throughout our lives. Only the cells that respond to the smells and tastes we are actually exposed to survive; so, our brains begin literally to reflect what we eat.
Everything in our lives is similar to the wine experiments. Every situation or event, past, present, or future becomes what our brains attach to it, and our reality is subjective, in this way, becoming our own creations. Likewise, our brains physically respond by reinforcing neural connections that coincide with our predominant, habitual thinking, a concept known as neuroplasticity.
Directed neuroplasticity gives you the power to change your brain and life. I think I’ll choose to view the wine glass as half full. Cheers!
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/httpstdesignsphotoblogspot/