Your Unreliable Consciousness

You probably consider this thread as a joke. You’ll say, “why would anyone doubt my ability to experience things?”. You live, you have senses, you know when you are able to sense sight, smell, sound, feel, and taste. Who am I to challenge your ability to do so?

Too many people put too much trust into their senses. Is this a reliable thing to do? Even the most sturdiest of buildings and foundations require criticism ever now and then because of how foundational they are. What better foundation than your own senses?

The primary inspiration for this post is from Dan Dennett:

Your Senses

 This is Meyer’s loop. Objectively speaking, your eyes receive light from the outside world and bring them in to collect in your brain for interpretation.

The greatest person to attack your senses was Descartes.

This image was drawn by Descartes to show the mechanistic way of which our body works. We see light, it enters our mind, our mind interprets, and we react.

Now, of course, the problem is that it is not until your interpret the images that you are able to distinguish what they are, where they are, etc.

Example 1

Look at the moon or far away object X. You know what X is, what it may do or looks like, etc. However, if you lift your hand, you can “hold” it in your sight. But you know the moon is bigger than the inch between your finger and thumb. This is because you know of dimensions and distance, depth, etc. Your eyes can only process so much and this is the direct light given from this object that gives you that perception.

Here is a humorous video from Kids in the Hall to demonstrate this:

In addition, your senses have fooled you numerous times. You have seen images in your dreams that felt real, look real, etc. but they are not real, are they? Of course, Descartes acknowledged the extrapolation of this to questioning reality, but we’re not looking at that. We’re just looking at the unreliability of our senses. You have seen things that are not part of this reality.

Also, you may see a certain person wearing a hat when on second glance you discover they really were not wearing a hat. How many times did you not take the second glance to realize this? The examples are endless. You cannot explore every potential mistake in perceptual judgment, it just happens.

Example 2

Furthermore, there is a blind spot in your eye. Given the right demonstration, you can see how there is actually a blind spot in your eye that your mind compensates for. See here:


Furthermore, how many times have you had fruit punch that actually contained no fruit? There are artificial flavors out there that taste like fruits, but are they truly fruits?

To test the idea of surveying responses, people will go out and ask “is this coke or diet coke” when, in fact, they are both coke. However, there is still a 50/50 split response rate (just the same as coin flipping) that some taste coke and some taste diet coke. The point here is that you have tasted things that were not actually what you thought they were.

Example 3

Also, your audio ability is very susceptible to mistakes. Firstly, how many times have you heard the mistaking of lyrics in a song?

Secondly, consider the McGurk Effect:

Close your eyes, play this movie, and listen. Open your eyes, replay and listen again. Is he saying “ba ba” or “da da”? It’s called the McGurk effect. The man in this video, and its creator, is Arnt Maasø, associate professor at the University of Oslo.

In this, we pay attention to both the actual sound we are seeing and considering how the person is forming the word and yet we make severe mistakes. Why is this? The point here is that you are prone to making audio mistakes.

The list goes on. I think I have proven my point in this aspect.

➡ Your Consciousness

But what about your deep internal thoughts? Can they be wrong? Well we know that our senses are not reliable, so what is left? What is left is our interaction with our body and our existence.

As Dan Dennett’s demonstration shows, there are many instances in which we are consciously sure of something. However, we can easily be wrong in almost any case even in our thoughts of experiencing something.

Furthermore, there are countless cases demonstrating the importance of your brain to experience. Without your brain, you are unable to properly perceive and experience many things. Let us go through some examples:


– Being unable to recognize familiar objects

+ Watch for him reaching for nothing!


– Unable to recognize faces (including their own!)

Visual Agnosia Example:

– Unable to recognize visual distinctions

+ The point here is to see whether or not you can see the difference. Many are incapable of this as a result of direct sense facilitation by the brain.

The point in all of the above videos is to demonstrate that, even when you are positive you experienced something, it is not always 100% true.

Your consciousness and your experience are not entirely reliable.

What do you think…?



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