On Seeing

Thoughts about seeing from Maria Popova expounding upon Alexandra Horowitz' On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

Maria Popova on Alexandra Horowitz:

“Cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz invites us to believe in her breathlessly wonderful On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes — a record of her quest to walk around a city block with eleven different “experts,” from an artist to a geologist to a dog, and emerge with fresh eyes mesmerized by the previously unseen fascinations of a familiar world. It is undoubtedly one of the most stimulating books of the year, if not the decade, and the most enchanting thing I’ve read in ages.”

Dog in Window, New York, NY 2007

Horowitz marvels at our brains’ magnificent plasticity, the same adaptability behind the “limbic revision” of love:

“Our brains are changed by experience — in a way directly related to the details of that experience. If we have enough experience doing an action, viewing a scene, or smelling an odor to become an “expert” in a field, then our brains are functionally — and visibly — different from nonexperts.”

And yet: “The brain is plastic, and can creatively adapt to a new situation, but it changes right back when it no longer needs to be creative.”

You can read the full post and more from Maria Popova here.

Houston Street, New York City, NY 2010