A Little Mind-Bender About Perception …
I’ve been thinking a lot about this reader question today. It’s completely mind-blowing to think that even our immediate, present experience is not actually present or immediate. There is a delay to everything, and we are never truly experiencing now.
Let’s take that mind-bender to another level!
- Extend each of your index fingers. Close your eyes.
- Slowly and carefully attempt to touch your nose and your ankle at the same time. This obviously works better if you’re sitting down.
- After a few tries, you should be able to feel each finger touching at the same time.
- Even better, find a friend and have them do the previous steps to you, to make the sensory experience completely independent.
Most of us, if we have any coordination at all, should be able to touch our ankle and nose simultaneously, so that it feels like a single moment.
But hold up a sec! The signal from your ankle had to travel maybe twenty times as far to get to your brain. Depending on the exact type of nerve cell stimulated by that touch, the message can take a noticeable fraction of a second to reach the brain from your foot (the nerve type that responds to touch transmits in the range of 30-70 m/s, although dull pain and warm/cold are about ten times slower).
So did they happen at the same time? Did you actually touch your nose and ankle simultaneously and your brain reassembled the asynchronous signals? Or did you touch your ankle and nose at slightly different moments, so that the sensory info would arrive at the same time?
I genuinely do not know the answer to this. Is there an answer? What do you all think?