Christian Long

Tom Wujec: 3 Ways the Brain Creates Meaning

In TED Talks on April 21, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Reflection by ALEX F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Tom Wujec:  3 Ways the Brain Creates Meaning

While the subject of how the brain works is tedious and plain boring for most people, when you take apart what Wujec is saying, there is a fascinating concept hidden in the jargon of neuroscience. By understanding how the brain creates meaning, we begin to see how TV commercials can deceive us, and billboards can make a sale better than a human.

Wujec focuses in on three specific parts of the brain: the ventral stream, the dorsal stream, and the limbic system.

He says that each system plays a specific role in forming meaning, such as what a thing is, spacial awareness, and gut instinct. That is what gives us the “ah-ha” experience, as he puts it. By understanding just these few areas of the brain and how it reacts to certain things, the manipulation of the human mind becomes much easier. If we can find something that gives everyone a mutual “ah-ha” moment, then advertising and even therapy can expand into totally new realms. While Wujec focuses mainly on speaking about how this system works and how it’s experienced, he’s touched upon something that could, if studied properly, transform how we’re brought to see things.

He also says that we find meaning through sight, but here is where I begin to disagree.

While it’s true that we use our eyes to get meaning out of things such as paintings and sculptures, which require only the use of the eyes, the rest of the world is a multi-sensory experience instead of just the visual that Wujec mentions. I don’t think anyone has gone through an entire day just using their eyes. They smell their surroundings, run their fingers down a guardrail, hear what’s going on around them, and taste the air that they breath. Wujec has presented a very limited version of what is an entire body experience.

Do blind people not find meaning in anything? Of course they do! I really wish he had at least broadened this statement so that it didn’t sound like he was saying we only find meaning through sight.

Over-all, however, this was a pretty interesting talk.

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