A picture is worth a thousand words. This is a phrase we have all heard at least a thousand times, but sometimes we need to be reminded that a picture is more than just what meets the eye. Only a little over 100 years ago, people believed that everything they saw in photographs was true. As long as the photograph was taken where and when the caption says it was, it was generally thought to be accurate and, at times, even more reliable than the testimony of a human eye witness (Ritchin, 1985). This mindset is now few and far between in today’s society. Nothing – not even a smiling selfie – can be published without meeting extreme scrutiny from the receiving public.
We live in a reality where nothing is reality. From the posts on Instagram we mindlessly scroll through, to the news we consume from major media outlets – nothing is as “real” as we would hope it would be. Falsities have become a new economy. Just like bootleg designer pocketbooks, fake digital content has been all the rage with people, and large organizations, using it to boost their social status, following, and engagement. So what do I mean when I say fake?
In my previous blog post, I discussed how psychologist Richard Gregory’s work in visual perception (Top-Down Processing Theory) and psychologist Robert Plutchik’s work in mapping emotions (Plutchik’s wheel) provides us with the framework to record and react to visual stimuli. Emotions, and how we express them, is key to our ability to create relationships with others. The easiest way to create a relationship with someone is to meet them in person. You can see how they move, get a feeling for their personality and how they speak, and you can notice little telltale signs that they might be bored by you like a yawn, an eye roll, or fidgety fingers. To really put this into perspective, think about a first date.
What makes being human so much fun is that we are constantly expressing ourselves. From the clothes we wear, to how we exercise our vocabulary, we are screaming – either with our voices or with subliminal cues – how we feel or choose to identify. As humans, we are barraged every single millisecond with stimuli. Because we are equipped with a very efficient brain, the detritus of each waking moment is filtered through and what we actually end up processing is a very nominal amount. Psychologist Richard Gregory argues that 90% of the information our eyes see is lost by the time it reaches our brains. Though this might be a shocking amount, the brain needs to perform and prioritize other tasks at the same time it is absorbing everything presented visually, auditorily, and otherwise.