"Scientists have discovered that schizophrenia sufferers are not fooled by a visual illusion and are able to judge it more accurately than non-schizophrenic observers. The study by UCL (University College London) and King's College London suggests that in everyday life, schizophrenics take less account of visual context. If this is part of a more general failure to deal appropriately with context, it could explain why some sufferers might misattribute people's actions or feel persecuted." - linkThis little snippet blew me away, not least because of its ramifications for understanding schizophrenic sufferers and how they interact with society, but for the underlying distinctions in our realities it exposes. I was reminded of a quote by Phil K Dick, always the most distinctive voice when it comes to alternative perspectives on perception and reality:
"Too much is emanating from the neurological apparatus of the organism, over and beyond the structural, organising necessity. The percept system in a sense is over perceiving, is presenting the self portion of the brain too much. The organism is seeing what is there, but no one else does, hence no semantic sign exists to depict the entity and therefore the organism's empathic relationships break down." - from The Shifting Realities of Philip K Dick...Phil is here talking about the social outcomes of hallucination and schizophrenia. Could it be possible that in moments of alternate consciousness, such as drug taking or religious experience, our brains tune in to aspects of reality we otherwise cannot perceive? And further more, as the study cited above may show, in the social irregularities of the schizophrenic could there be signs of windows looking out over varied vistas of reality? Aldous Huxley defined it best for me in his culturally-reforming Doors of Perception:
"Reflecting on my experience, I find myself agreeing with the eminent Cambridge philosopher, Dr. C. D. Broad... "The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful."...For a brief, but scintillating reality check have a look at this previous post on optical illusions and the way your brain fills in the gaps of reality...
...As Mind at Large seeps past the no longer watertight valve, all kinds of biologically useless things start to happen. In some cases there may be extra-sensory perceptions. Other persons discover a world of visionary beauty. To others again is revealed the glory, the infinite value and meaningfulness of naked existence, of the given, unconceptualized event. In the final stage of egolessness there is an "obscure knowledge" that All is in all - that All is actually each. This is as near, I take it, as a finite mind can ever come to "perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe." - link
And for a glimpse into the kind of mind that is "capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe" the stunning book 'The Mind of a Mnemonist' is no greater guide...
UPDATE: You can now try out the visual illusion mentioned in the article above on the BBC online website. The BBC story also goes into greater detail on the implications of the study for our understanding of schizophrenia - link