Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Binocular vision is defined as “vision using two eyes with overlapping fields of view, allowing good perception of depth.”1 Think about that. We have two eyes, a left eye and a right eye. They have overlapping vision, and this is what gives us depth perception.
But binocular vision can create a problem in seeing an object clearly, particularly if that object is too close. An object, let’s say, like, your own nose.
“It’s as plain as the nose on your face” is an interesting expression. Curiosity.com puts it this way. “Sometimes you can't see what's been right in front of you all along. In the case of your own nose, that's literally the case. Your nose is always visible in your line of sight, but thanks to your brain, it's not blocking your field of vision. The mechanism called unconscious selective attention makes it so that your brain can ignore the presence of your ever-visible nose. It's thought that your mind does this because it considers the sight of your nose unimportant, so it unconsciously puts your attention on other things in your field of vision.”2
Here’s how to overcome your unconscious selective attention. Close your right eye and use your left eye to look at the left side of your nose. Really. Go ahead. Do it. Now close your left eye and look at the right side of your nose. Guess what, you nose has too sides. They are similar, but not identical. If you really want to see both sides at the same time, you have to look at yourself in the mirror.
Now let’s apply what we’ve learned and use it to help us gain some “depth perception” on what’s going on around us. When it comes to interpreting current events and issues, we suffer from “selective unconscious attention.” We focus on items we interpret as important and block out information that we view as insignificant or overly familiar. Fortunately, just like we have two eyes, we also have the ability to see things from two perspectives. We have the ability to see things going on around us from a left perspective and a right perspective. The “right” eye, or conservative perspective, tends to look backward. It values things in the past. It places value on continuity and preservation. Memories, tradition, and history are important. The “left” eye, or progressive perspective, tends to look forward. It values things in the future. It places value on progress, change, and improvement. These perspectives are not enemies, they are partners. They help you see both sides of things. Like your nose.
Is it possible that we can pursue a cubist mentality when regarding news, current events, politics and other people’s opinions? Simply put, cubism is a style of art which aims to show all of the possible viewpoints of a person or an object all at once.” 3 (See illustration above.) It may not be possible to show “all” the possible viewpoints of complicated issues, but it should be possible to simultaneously contemplate two.
Let me illustrate why that can be difficult. I have an astigmatism in my left eye. Which means that my right eye sees objects more clearly than my left eye. That doesn’t mean I don’t use my left eye. It means I get corrective lenses so that I can see things clearly with both eyes. In the same way, one of our perspectives is usually clearer than the other. You may see things clearly from a progressive perspective, but things on the conservative side are a bit blurry. Or vice, versa. Can we get corrective lenses for our prejudices and biases? Wouldn’t we understand things better if we developed the ability to view issues and events from multiple perspectives? I think we would.
To summarize: If you want to overcome your own unconscious selective attention and gain a deeper perception of complex current events and issues, learn to look at them using the same process that helps you look at your nose. Look at it through your right eye. Look at it again with your left eye. Then look at yourself in the mirror.
Cue the Michael Jackson lyrics:
I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that