Filling in the blanks

Research in the field of neuroscience has shown that the objects we see are often not the same as the information that reaches our eyes. The brain makes adjustments and fills in gaps when it feels information is missing. You are probably familiar with the following text prepared by a researcher at the University of Cambridge:

"It deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe."

It says, “It doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.”

Beyond this, researchers from the University of Glasgow have shown that when parts of our vision are blocked, the brain steps in to fill in the blanks.

They conducted a series of experiments. These showed that our brain predicts what cannot be seen by drawing on our previous experiences to build up a complete picture.

Their results demonstrate that our brain doesn’t rely solely on what our eyes see. Instead the brain constructs a complex prediction. It is as if it is completing an incredibly difficult jigsaw puzzle using any pieces it can get access to. These ‘pieces’ come from the context in which we see them, from our memories and from our other senses.

Apparently our brain is continuously anticipating what we will see, hear or feel next. If parts of an image are obstructed, our brain still predicts what is likely to be present behind the object. It anticipates what the whole object will look like. And all this happens in a nanosecond.

As experienced observers of the world, you and I think we are gleaning precise information. In fact, it’s a combination of partial information and best guesses. And our customers are no different!

Key Learning Point: Your customers’ previous experiences and expectations will influence what they see and how they judge you.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


Cognition and Brain Science Unit, Cambridge University, UK

Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, Glasgow University

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Jurek Leon is a storyteller, speaker and trainer. Subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly 'Terrific Tips' e-newsletter at Alternatively, email