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How well is your brain working? It's probably faulty

If you have ever had the feeling that you see the world differently from other people, you are probably right.

According to Dr Rachael Sharman, Lecturer in Psychology at University of the Sunshine Coast, our individual perception of reality can be skewed by a variety of external and internal elements causing us to see things that aren't there or remember things that never happened.

Did you see the dancer spinning clockwise or anticlockwise? Clockwise: You use more of your right brain.
Anticlockwise: You use more of your left brain. Most people see her spinning anticlockwise. Can you make her turn the other way, using the power of your mind?
More left-right brain testing at http://braintest.sommer-sommer.com/en/
Did you see the dancer spinning clockwise or anticlockwise? Clockwise: You use more of your right brain. Anticlockwise: You use more of your left brain. Most people see her spinning anticlockwise. Can you make her turn the other way, using the power of your mind? More left-right brain testing at http://braintest.sommer-sommer.com/en/

"The human brain is actually a pretty faulty information system," Dr Sharman said. "And perception is a really interesting part of that.

"There are a whole heap of factors that influence our perception such as age, culture, bias, personal experience. These all influence our perception."

Dr Sharman says Psychology is a fascinating area of study, and she is looking forward to discussing it with visitors to USC's Imaginarium and Open Day on August 9.

She says that much as our phones use predictive text, our brains are constantly putting together the information we are giving it, as we give it. And, like predictive text, sometimes our brains get it wrong.

"The brain is constantly looking for patterns it can recognise, and tries to find them in everything and then make assumptions based on this, which can result in cognitive illusions."

There is no animation in this image: Your eyes (or more accurately your brain) are making them move.
There is no animation in this image: Your eyes (or more accurately your brain) are making them move.

Don't believe everything you see
Optical illusions are images that differ from objective reality: information from the eyes is processed by the brain to give a perception that doesn't agree with reality.

Literal optical illusions create images that are different from the objects that make them.

Physiological illusions result from excessive stimulation (brightness, colour, size, position, tilt, movement) that affects the eyes and brain, and

Cognitive illusions are the result of unconscious assumptions made by the brain.

"People are often really shocked that their perception does not match reality," Dr Sharman says. "It really throws them that what they think they saw, isn't what was really there."

Dr Sharman says certain parts of the human brain will become active or inactive depending on the situation we are in.

"Fear is a good example of this," Dr Sharman says. "If something happens that causes us fear, a part of our brain that usually is largely inactive will suddenly become very active; sending us all the signals we need to act.

"Driving is another great example. When we are learning to drive, we use the thinking part of our brain, but as we become more experienced, the act of driving is taken over by another part of the brain - the automatic part. This is how you can sometimes get to your destination and not have a clear memory of the drive there.

"When the brain is working on automatic, and something happens suddenly - like a kangaroo jumps out in front of you - you are able to access the thinking part of your brain to make a fast decision.

"The problem with someone just learning to drive is that they are already using the thinking part of their brain to make all decisions required to simply drive from A to B, so when something happens suddenly, they can't access that thinking part of their brain as quickly or effectively because it is already in use."

If you can find the man in the coffee beans in three seconds or less, the right half of your brain may be more developed than most people. Don't ask us - we can't see it at all.
If you can find the man in the coffee beans in three seconds or less, the right half of your brain may be more developed than most people. Don't ask us - we can't see it at all.

"Psychology is really the study of how our brains work and why we do what we do," Dr Sharman says.

"A lot of people think if you study psychology you are going to become a psychologist but that actually isn't the case; most people go on to work in a variety of fields. Understanding how the brain works is a really valuable tool."

There will be plenty of fun activities and prizes on offer at Imaginarium, which is designed to open the community's eyes to the world of possibilities offered at USC.

Imaginarium is the day to find out about studying at USC. Take in the sights on a general campus tour, or if you know your program, book a specialist tour of facilities with the appropriate academic staff.

There will also be information and advice on admissions, fees and scholarships. There are loads of activities and displays, as well as entertainment all day, and a world of food to choose from.

Head along and fly the perfect paper plane; check out the giant maze; see if you can fit in a giant bubble; try your hand at rock climbing on the free standing climbing walls; or simply explore the Global Village.

Register now