Open eyed or open minded?

Are you open to new experiences and interpretations? Able to see both sides of an argument or imagine a different way the world could be? Do you quickly spot the humour of ambiguous situations?

At one time in my (increasingly) ancient past, I was a visual scientist and remember running experiments on binocular rivalry. Binocular Rivalry occurs when two different images are presented to our two eyes simultaneously. What tends to happen is people’s perception flips between one image and the other as their brain completely suppresses first one image then the other. But occasionally it can result in the two images blending into one.

Binoc Rivalry

Binocular Rivalry stimuli

A fascinating recent study has explored whether people who are high on the personality trait of Openness to Experience (as characterised by more flexible and creative thinking) are more likely to blend the perception of the right and left eye images in binocular rivalry experiments.

And it seems they are!

Presented with red versus green striped images in either eye, people who scored higher on a standard measure of Openness to Experience reported seeing a combined left/right eye image more often than lower scorers.

So, the question which fascinates me is which comes first – the visual system’s facility to combine two competing images into a single percept or one’s wider social and cognitive comfortableness with such unresolved ambiguity?

Read the original study (June 2017) here.


About Alison Kidd

Research Psychologist
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