Open-Minded People Visually Perceive Reality Differently

Recent studies suggest personality traits affect the way you see the world.

June 7, 2017 5:00 am
Young girl is watching sunset over Tokyo in Odaiba.
Your personality might shape what you see. (Getty)

Recent studies suggest that personality traits affect more than you outlook on life.

In fact, they affect the way you perceive reality.

A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality earlier this year suggests that openness to experience changes what people see in the world. It also makes them more likely to experience certain visual perceptions differently than others.

For example: When each eye is shown a different image — a red patch in one eye and a green patch in the other — most people switch back and forth between the two incompatible images. This is because the brain can only perceive one at a time.

But some people merge the two images into a unified red-green patch. Those participants in the recent study who scored higher on openness were also more likely to perceive this combined image.

The researchers say this is because openness to new experiences is linked with creativity.

The lead author of the study, Anna Antinori, says that humans are constantly filtering out the sensory information on which to focus. A person, for example, might ignore the background noise at the coffee shop or ignore the feel of the chair on your back. Those subconscious preferences determine what we perceive.

“The ‘gate’ that lets through the information that reaches consciousness may have a different level of flexibility,” Antinori says. “Open people appear to have a more flexible gate and let through more information than the average person.”

Even though the research suggests that personality affects the way we filter conscious experience, it is not immediately clear how this process works.

The authors, though, have a theory. They speculate that overlapping neurochemicals in the brain may link perception to personality.

Meanwhile, another study shows that personality traits aren’t fixed. Despite there being little research on whether perception also changes with the new personality traits, Antinori believes the way we see the world probably changes in line with personality.

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