We do not see with our eyes. We see with our brains.

We do not see with our eyes. We see with our brains.

The evidence lies with a group of 54 wine aficionados. Stay with me here. To the untrained ear, the vocabularies that wine tasters use to describe wine may seem pretentious, more reminiscent of a psychologist describing a patient. (“Aggressive complexity, with just a subtle hint of shyness” is something I once heard at a wine-tasting soirĂ©e to which I was mistakenly invited—and from which, once picked off the floor rolling with laughter, I was hurriedly escorted out the door).

These words are taken very seriously by the professionals, however. A specific vocabulary exists for white wines and a specific vocabulary for red wines, and the two are never supposed to cross. Given how individually we each perceive any sense, I have often wondered how objective these tasters actually could be. So, apparently, did a group of brain researchers in Europe. They descended upon ground zero of the wine-tasting world, the University of Bordeaux, and asked: “What if we dropped odorless, tasteless red dye into white wines, then gave it to 54 wine-tasting professionals?” With only visual sense altered, how would the enologists now describe their wine? Would their delicate palates see through the ruse, or would their noses be fooled? The answer is “their noses would be fooled.” When the wine tasters encountered the altered whites, every one of them employed the vocabulary of the reds. The visual inputs seemed to trump their other highly trained senses.

Folks in the scientific community had a field day. Professional research papers were published with titles like “The Color of Odors” and “The Nose Smells What the Eye Sees.” That’s about as much frat boy behavior as prestigious brain journals tolerate, and you can almost see the wicked gleam in the researchers’ eyes. Data such as these point to the nuts and bolts of the Brain Rule: Vision trumps all other senses. Visual processing doesn’t just assist in the perception of our world. It dominates the perception of our world.

Related Links:
Brain Rules Workshops

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