Human vision is amazing. Standing in my kitchen early one morning my eyes picked up the tiny, jerking movement of a very, very small moth. But my first thought was not “this is a moth”. Rather, it was “this is not a mosquito”.
Right now we’re in the middle of mosquito season and I’m always alert for ones that have invaded my home. I knew this bug wasn’t a mosquito right away although I didn’t have my glasses on and couldn’t clearly see it. It was the movement that gave it away. A mosquito seems to glide smoothly through the air while a moth makes erratic seeming movements in all directions.
My vision system registered all of that in a split second. Had it been a mosquito I probably would have reacted instantly by swatting at it since I’ve programmed my brain to think of them as needing to be killed before I get bit. Since it was a moth, I didn’t have to spring into action.
It’s amazing how the human brain reacts to its built-in sensors and makes a split-second decision whether to put the body into motion or not. Most of the algorithm my brain used to make this decision was formed over years of seeing bugs in flight, categorizing them and determining if they were dangerous or not.
Learning any task or skill is built up the same way. Repetitive input through the eyes and ears along with the movement from the rest of the body program the brain to recognize patterns and respond to them. At the same time, the brain uses these recorded programs to send feedback to the body that allows it to output the pattern. A skill is born.
What I’m interested in now is finding ways to imprint those patterns on the brain faster and more permanently. Of course one has to practice skills. But is there a way to acquire them more efficiently?