Living in the Past

People often accuse others of living in the past, but it turns out everyone is – by exactly 15 seconds!

Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley have discovered that the human brain shows you images from 15 seconds in the past, instead of trying to update your vision in real-time. Just like a social media feed, the brain is constantly uploading new and rich visual stimuli.

However, to keep everything that our eyes are taking in every second of every day in order, the study finds the brain actually presents us with an image from 15 seconds earlier. The findings provide new insights into what scientists call the mind’s “continuity field,” a function of perception where the brain merges with what our eyes see to provide a sense of stability.

Without it, study authors say the world would actually appear like a blurry jumble in your eyes. “If our brains were always updating in real time, the world would be a jittery place with constant fluctuations in shadow, light and movement, and we’d feel like we were hallucinating all the time,” explains study senior author David Whitney, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology, neuroscience, and vision science, in a university release.