Pop Quiz

Going through some old files for a project I’m working on this week I found a few old gems worth sharing. This one is really short, a quick pop quiz to start the week. Here is a sentence:

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE-
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIF-
IC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.

Now count the number of F’s in that sentence. Count them only once! Do not go back and count them again. See below for answers after you have counted.

Answers below:

There are six F’s in the sentence. On average, most spot the three obvious ones. If you spotted four, you’re above-average. If you got all six, congrats, A+!

There is no catch.

Many people forget the word “of” … The human brain tends to see them
as V’s and not F’s.

(Editor: In my experience, seeing only the third “of” results in common counts of four. For some reason the two on the second line are most invisible to people.)

Pretty weird, huh?

Stay sharp, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

16 responses to “Pop Quiz

  • Maggie Wilson

    Average.

    :/

    but fascinating – love these brain things.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      When I found the file yesterday, I got a four — I think because I remembered about the “of” from seeing this long ago. And even so I still got a four. 😮

      It’s embarrassing how many times I had to read it to spot the two in the second line. I tend to really suck at these things. I’m terrible at those “spot the difference” image tricks!

      • Maggie Wilson

        Well, that’s a comfort – if someone who KNOWS the answer still had challenges finding the effing f’s, then I don’t’ feel so badly!

        but Seriously! Even when you told me exactly where to look for the to two “of’s” I STILL had trouble seeing them!

        makes ya wonder what else I’m missing…

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, as it turns out, we’re all missing stuff all the time. This little exercise just brings that into the foreground. There are many other experiments that demonstrate how much we don’t consciously notice unless our attention is directed to it. Raises all sorts of interesting questions about how our brains process input!

        You know about your eye’s blind spots, right? Two little holes in our vision that we never notice.

        Or did you know you only see color directly in the center of your vision? Anything off-center is mostly black and white, but your brain remembers what color it was and fills it in. You can test this by gazing straight ahead and having someone behind you slowly move an object into your visual field. Have them select from a group of similar objects of different colors — different colored cloths, for instance. If you don’t cheat and glance sideways, you’ll be able to tell an object is in your vision, but not what color it is.

        You get a similar effect if you’re in a dark room and, say, a red power light glows on, say, your disc player. In your peripheral vision, it’ll just look like a white light. If you turn your head to look straight at it, it will be red.

        This is why star-gazers are taught to look at dim stars off-center rather than straight at. Those color-detecting cones in the center of your vision aren’t as sensitive to light. The colorless light-detecting rods are much more sensitive. Your peripheral night vision is actually better than when you look straight ahead!

        So, yeah, we’re missing boat loads!

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Average too.

    It’s interesting that we have a harder time seeing it in “of”. It sort of implies that maybe the most common words are processed deeper in our unconscious than less common ones. Or something about the longer words makes it more consciously accessible.

    This gets to the p-conscious versus a-conscious debate. Despite the ‘f’s undoubtedly being in our field of vision, were we conscious of them prior to your challenge? Or of the ones we missed prior to seeing the answer?

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “It’s interesting that we have a harder time seeing it in ‘of’. “

      Sure surprised me! As I mentioned to Maggie Wilson, above, I got four at first, but I think I remembered the thing from the past (it was in my old files, after all).

      Then I glanced down in the text file just enough to see the count, six. So then I went back and tried to find all six… and couldn’t for the longest time. Those two in the second row had their cloaking engaged. I had to read the whole explanation before I found them.

      Of course, now that I’ve spotted them, they all stand out. That’s a common experience on many levels — that new word you suddenly start “hearing everywhere.”

      “Or something about the longer words makes it more consciously accessible.”

      It could have to do with the semantic depth, or meat, behind the word. The connective tissue words of grammar, such as “of” and “the,” are a kind of gristle we ignore (but need to hold the meat together).

      The meat of that test sentence is: “Finished files. Years scientific study. Experience years.”

      (Writing it that way makes me wonder if the slight weirdness of the third clause is why I spotted the “of” there. The first two make better sense. Something’s missing from the last one.)

      “This gets to the p-conscious versus a-conscious debate.”

      Very much so. I think we are conscious of these things, at least in the sense that some of our low-level brain functions are processing the data. But we necessarily have a sparse immediate attention model — the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We simply can’t behold the entire thing, we have to bury some of it “under water.”

      But (to stretch the metaphor) we can “roll” the iceberg to bring other parts of it into view. I assume that means other parts roll out of view.

      My guess is that much of what we experience phenomenally (and through access) is that tip of the iceberg. Much more goes on in the brain we aren’t aware of and generally can’t be aware of.

      Which is to say I don’t see PC or AC as one above the other, but aspects of one thing.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On the unconscious, the book I’m currently reading makes a distinction between the complete unconscious, stuff that has no chance of making it into consciousness, and the preconscious, stuff that might make it into conscious, if we attend to it. It seems like the Fs would be in the preconscious category.

        “Which is to say I don’t see PC or AC as one above the other, but aspects of one thing.”

        Totally agreed. I don’t think there can be PC without AC. It would be like a TV show without a TV (or equivalent device) or TV station / DVD / streaming service.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “It seems like the Fs would be in the preconscious category.”

        Agree with both that and the preconscious-unconscious distinction. (I’m fascinated by the unconscious and how it has its own thoughts, goals, and ideas. It’s like a whole other person, a roommate, living in your head.)

        “I don’t think there can be PC without AC.”

        You’ve asserted that a few times I’ve seen, and I’ve been thinking about it a bit. I suppose it depends on whether AC is the only means of accessing mental states. Per your analogy, the TV show can only be received on the TV (or appropriate device).

        To follow that analogy, the TV show is being produced and broadcast, which suggests the data is there, perhaps accessible in other ways. (The tooth filling that picks up radio comes to mind.)

        Instead, if PC is the immediate “in the moment” mode, with AC being the reflective analytical mode (requiring memory and semantic associations), then I think PC is experienced on its own.

        A data point that suggests this to me is various “in the moment” experiences I’ve had that I found almost impossible to report on or analyze afterwards. No real memory of the event; just impressions. Yet I was clearly conscious and functional during.

        Both skydiving and playing music have done that (hallucinogens, too 🙂 ), although for different reasons (skydiving was terrifying; I love playing music). The common aspect is a lack of conscious narrative and loss of time sense (as in meditation). You stop thinking.

        If such states can be termed PC, then I think PC is possible without AC.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “It’s like a whole other person, a roommate, living in your head.”

        From what I’ve read, the unconscious is a bit more limited than that. I think reflexive and habitual tasks fall into its purview (such as translating shapes into letters and groups of letters into words). But at a higher level, it tends to exist in specialized isolated regions. Anything that is novel and requires integration tends to make it into conscious awareness.

        Put another way, your unconscious can’t plan a special party. But it can influence the individual decisions you make while doing that planning, and it can drive you there if it’s in a location you’ve been to many times.

        “You stop thinking.”

        Do you though? Or does the thinking become more tightly focused, so focused that you omit the internal voice narrative and most self consciousness?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Put another way, your unconscious can’t plan a special party. But it can influence the individual decisions you make while doing that planning, and it can drive you there if it’s in a location you’ve been to many times.”

        Right. The first part of that — the influencer — is what I was referring to by the unconscious. That’s the “roommate” who isn’t you but who affects your decisions.

        The habitual task autopilot, to me, is another kind of thing. It’s very difficult to access the influencer — sometimes, like wind, it’s only visible through its effects on us. But we can get at the autopilot, the “muscle memory,” just by directing our attention to it, so it seems much more accessible to me.

        That autopilot is, I think, linked with our PC. I’m not sure how phenomenal the roommate is. For all I know, the unconscious mind has no direct access to immediate sensory data. It might depend entirely on AC.

        “Or does the thinking become more tightly focused, so focused that you omit the internal voice narrative and most self consciousness?”

        That’s what I meant by “stop thinking” (taking it too literally would be death). 😀

        That internal voice is, I’d say, almost entirely on the AC side as is any self-reflection involved in self consciousness. The mental states I’m invoking here seem very much to me to consist of almost pure experience without any narrative or analysis. Coming out of such a state is a little like waking from a dream. Very phenomenal.

        As I mentioned, it depends on whether you consider those “in the zone” or “in the moment” mental states as entirely on the PC side as opposed to requiring AC for any conscious thought at all. Per your TV show analogy, it’d be a bit like being present for the taping rather than watching it on a device.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “For all I know, the unconscious mind has no direct access to immediate sensory data.”

        Actually, based on what I’ve been reading, the unconscious is vast and diverse. Much of it, like the autonomic stuff, you’re right, has no access to sensory data. Some of it, like the upper brainstem, has it own separate feed of sensory data which we have no access to.

        But a lot of the early sensory cortical regions are unconscious. We don’t perceive the raw signal coming from our eyes. If we did, our vision would be constantly jerking around with each eye saccade, have a big hole in the center where the optic nerve connects to the retina, show the blemishes all of our corneas have, and a host of other bizarre things. All of that gets filtered, stabilized, and cleaned up before we have access to it. (Which is one of the reasons I’m skeptical about the separation between AC and PC.)

        But some aspects of the unconscious, even after the early sensory areas, have better access to sensory data. Our unconscious can process subliminal messages, messages that can never register in our consciousness, even to extent of deciphering written language. And we often unconsciously process things like body language that we might not consciously notice.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Bringing us back to what I said originally about a “whole other person.” 🙂

  • rung2diotimasladder

    That is too weird. I missed the “F” in “scientific” and the last “of”. I wonder if part of the trick is that people are distracted by trying to figure out what the catch will be.

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