In Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow, he describes the patterns of thinking the brain goes through when encountering visual information. This thought process is a useful exercise for better understanding how unconscious bias exists in people, and also how optical illusions can fool the eye.
The mind has great ability for logical thinking, however, 99% of the brain’s activity occurs without conscious effort. Consider: 2+2= , or the odrer of the ltteers in tihs prhsae—if you have countless experiences quickly skimming the written English language or adding numbers in your head, the brain may instantly fill in the information needed, rearranging correctly the order of the letters in this phrase, or promptly thinking of the number 4. This adherence to patterns experienced in daily life, and the resulting conclusions about individuals that are often jumped to, are illustrated in the three paintings on this wall. The visual information is warped by its surroundings, whether this is painted targets, or the perception of distance and depth.
Consider the figures in each of these three paintings. The illusions paired with each figure allows for an assumption or an unconscious association that may be made with each of the figures. Of course, in society there can be blatant, conscious bias against groups of people. However, consider how each person may have been conditioned over a lifetime to build up an unconscious association of “the most plausible story” when viewing the visual information presented while trying to understand someone’s identity. Are you a member of this individual’s in-group? Have you grown up in a country where depictions of minorities have created a generalized assessment of the group’s circumstances rather than a nuanced view of the actual individual? Have you consumed a wide variety of media portraying members of groups outside of your own understanding? These experiences may train the brain for unconscious understandings of the world, whether or not the result of this understanding is realized, or aligns with how one wants to perceive the world.