As we have discussed in other posts, humans come in contact with millions of stimuli every day. Out of necessity, we ignore many of the stimuli and gloss over others. This helps us to get through each day without being overwhelmed. However, we lose a lot if we never stop and really take a deep look at things.
Looking Outside The Lines
Often the information that is intended for our attention is well defined and within a graph, report, or painting. It is important to look not only at the image or message that the author or painter is trying to convey, but also look at what else is surrounding the intended message. Then, consider what is excluded. For a painting, look at the frame, the mat, and even the wall where the painting is hung. Look for additional information outside of the painting that supports or contradicts the message of the painting. Lastly, consider what is not included in the painting.
The same is true of reports and graphs. Look at the information that supports the core information, information about the authors, and information about the magazine or other source. Also, consider what the authors did not say. For instance, if the information is based on a study, is the size and location of the study included in the information?
It is important to look at what supports this “prepared” information. To do this, look at your child’s homework and see where they are struggling instead of just looking at their grade. Likewise, look at the sources of reports and graphs. Analyze if those are valid sources. Are the trends shown in the report only based on the experience of 100 people? If so, do you consider it a large enough study for you to accept that the trend is meaningful?
It also means researching news stories and looking at articles from multiple perspectives. What were their sources? Were the sources used for the article selected to represent only one point of view? Do other sources support the perspective of the article?
The Little Details
Take a deeper look at the little details. This isn’t about seeing the trees instead of the forest. It is about seeing the small insects crawling out of the cracks in the bark of the tree and then noticing how the veins of the leaves form an unusual image that reminds you of a bear claw.
For a painting, look at small details of the image. For instance, look at the brush stroke. Is it different in different parts of the painting? Does that seem significant? Does the brush stroke tell a story?
For an article, graph, or other information, look at the details and the representation of the information. For instance, on a graph is the scale such that it is misleading? Likewise, look at small details that may be the focus when they are not the primary part of the article. On the flip side, look for more significant details that are left out or downplayed in the article.
Sounds, Smells, Texture, and Taste Count, Too
Our investigation of things in our environment is not limited to what we can experience with our sight. We can learn a lot by really listening, taking time to experience the smells in the room, touching the surface of something to feel the texture, and tasting edible items. Not all senses apply to every item. For instance, a person is not generally going to taste a painting. However, they might smell the paint.
It is by choosing to really deeply experience some items in our environment that we gain greater knowledge and understanding of our world. When we allow too many stimuli to be dismissed, we are on auto-pilot and aren’t really experiencing anything. Find something each day to truly experience!