The Dilemma of Prior Knowledge

Everything we see, our mind makes an attempt to immediately associate it with something we have already seen, something familiar. That is why, even though you know that the following picture does not explicitly depict a triangle, we see it, we perceive it – because we know what a triangle looks like. And it becomes very difficult not to see it, once we know of it’s existence.

So this means, we have a repository of images in our minds, and even without us knowing, we are sifting through them to find assoications for the things around us.
Considering this fact, it is to my advantage that I keep adding to this repository, so that I recognise patterns. As an artist or a designer, it means I can add interest to my work by playing on this psychology by subtly adding that element that is not obvious, but dependent on the user’s own repository.

But here’s the flipside. If my mind is trained to make associations in the blink of an eye, how do I ever get a fresh perspective. How do I NOT see what has been seen before?

While this principle speaks of visual perception, isn’t it true for our thought life, in general?

Once we have become comfortable with set thought patterns, it is all the more difficult to look at, think and see something new altogether.

And this is the reason why a child’s perspective is honest and untamed. Her repository has not yet been fully formed, she looks at something without making those associations.

So, to know or not to know. In this age of information overload, we probably don’t have a choice. But maybe we can exercise our minds to be flexible.

Think about that!