Via BoingBoing, “Faculty of Arts & Sciences: News and Events

Researchers at Harvard University have found evidence that the retina actively seeks novel features in the visual environment, dynamically adjusting its processing in order to seek the unusual while ignoring the commonplace. The scientists report in this week’s issue of the journal Nature on their finding that this principle of novelty-detection operates in many visual environments.

“Apparently our thirst for novelty begins in the eye itself,” says Markus Meister, the Jeff C. Tarr Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Our eyes report the visual world to the brain, but not very faithfully. Instead, the retina creates a cartoonist’s sketch of the visual scene, highlighting key features while suppressing the less interesting regions.”

I have not completely thought through the way this links to visual design, but there’s something about visual saturation, sensory overload/sensory deprivation, etc … Certainly this is another level of the need for people to socially construct their views of the world, or the way in which eye witness testimony is always suspect. Interesting, also in conjunction to the work of Ramachandran.