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Blaming Each Other

Story Behind a Picture. Our brains manage to construct stable images even as our eyes keep darting around. The lines scribbled over this famous Georges Seurat painting come from an experiment that tracked how the human eye jerks around as it takes in the details of the scene. The black lines crisscrossing it are not the work of a toddler wreaking havoc with a permanent marker, but that of neuroscientist Robert Wurtz of the National Eye Institute in the US.

These were then translated into the graffiti you see here.


Art lovers may cringe, yet it is likely that Seurat would have been intrigued by this augmentation of his work. The movement Seurat kick-started with this painting — Neo-Impressionism — drew inspiration from the scientific study of how our vision works.


Particularly influential was the pioneering research of Hermann von Helmholtz, a German physician, physicist and philosopher and author of a seminal book, Handbook of Physiological Optics , on the way we perceive depth, color and motion. Consider that the lines above were drawn in just three minutes. If we saw all those movements as we made them, our view of the world would be a blur of constant motion.

Beginning with the basics: The only things we can ever hope to see are those that send or reflect light toward our eyes, where it might end up hitting the retina, a layer of nervous tissue that covers the back two-thirds of the inner eyeball. There, the complex image of whatever we are looking at is first translated into activity of individual light-sensitive photoreceptor cells.

This pattern is then transmitted to a variety of neurons in the retina that specifically respond to certain colors, shapes, orientations, movements or contrasts. The signals they produce are sent up to the brain through the optic nerve, where they are interpreted and put back together in a progression of specialized areas in the visual cortex. Since that would be rather unwieldy, only one tiny area of the retina — called the fovea — provides this kind of resolution.

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So in order to grant all the interesting features of our environment their moment in the foveal spotlight, we move our eyes around — a lot — in darts that scientists call saccades. Saccades are guided by what we are paying attention to, even though we are often blissfully unaware of them. This illustration laying out the basic structure of the eye shows where the fovea — where images are rendered in high resolution — is situated.

Eye jerks known as saccades allow different parts of a scene to come into the line of sight of the fovea.

Life’s a blur — but we don’t see it that way

Scientists refer to this phenomenon as visual masking, and it is thought to be very common in real-life situations where a lot is going on at the same time. If scientists set up experiments in a way that avoids this visual masking, it reveals that our brains can perceive the less noticeable things. This can be done, Morrone explains, by showing people nothing but very faint and short-lived visual stimuli on an otherwise empty background. Under these conditions, surprising things may happen.

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Since we do not notice our constant saccades, this suggests that the brain specifically suppresses the signals that reach our retina while a saccadic eye movement is in process. And indeed, experiments have shown that if something appears during a saccade, we may miss it entirely. If we were to see our surroundings from one angle, then see nothing, and then suddenly see it from another angle, that would still be unsettling. Instead, as Wurtz and others have shown, a kind of remapping happens even before we move our eyes.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue. Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors. How can you get along with someone you find difficult, distasteful or downright obnoxious? Remember that whatever you might feel about a person, someone else might feel the same about you.

We all have our faults. However, at some point you may have to work with someone you dislike. That may seem tough, but you can work with almost anyone if you just keep a few things in mind. In fact, by using these tips, you might find that a challenging person can still offer useful insights. They may even be able to help you see things from a different perspective. Successful people understand that if you restrict who you can work with you are only limiting yourself. Use these 11 strategies to empower yourself to deal with even the most difficult people.

But, we all do have to find a way to get along and work with each other. Acknowledging that you clash with someone, without judging who is right or wrong, can remove the strong emotions that often accompany difficult relationships. Dealing with someone who rubs you the wrong way can have a negative effect on your own emotions. A toxic person can drive you crazy. Recognize that your emotions, such as irritation and annoyance, are scaling up.

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If someone is making you angry, let yourself feel that emotion and then let those feelings dissipate. And remember, sometimes all you need to do is smile and nod.

Choose tact over temper Learn to cultivate a diplomatic poker face -- this is key in learning to treat all people with civility and politeness. You just need to maintain a consistent level of decorum when interacting with them. Be soft on the person, but firm on the issue. This means that you focus on the issues that need to be corrected rather than attack someone personally. If you learn to do this consistently, you will always come across as professional and positive, which will give you the upper hand in all situations.

Often people do what they do because of themselves, not because of you. Try widening your perspective on the situation. A broader view can often reduce misunderstanding. You can also be proactive when dealing with someone you know can provoke you. Think of multiple ways of reacting calmly and decisively. This can help you avoid a ping-pong effect, in which you overreact to them and they overreact to you in return. Remember that every situation involves both the person you are communicating with and the issue you are discussing.

Concentrate on the issue, not the person.

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But, if you stoop to their level and become embroiled in disputes, you may also be labeled a troublemaker. You can choose to rise above it by focusing on facts and rational responses. Point out specific issues or problems if need be, but do so diplomatically. The key is to do so calmly and in a nonconfrontational but assertive way.

The goal is to clearly and non-aggressively express how you feel and their role in your current state without blaming them. Be as specific as possible when telling someone which behaviors make you upset and what you would like them to do to correct the problem. Not all things are worth your time and attention. Ask yourself if you really want to get caught in a protracted argument about an issue you can sidestep. Is the ultimate benefit worth the challenge? Do you have more to lose than win?

Consider if the issue is situational, in which case it may dissolve or dissipate with time. Also, sometimes a quarrelsome person serves to benefit us in other ways. It may be in your best interest to put up with their idiosyncrasies if they are helping you more than hurting you. A physical barrier may not possible, but you can still establish boundaries and decide when and how you interact with others by setting limits on how much time you spend with them.

Disconnect from them emotionally, and physically separate yourself from situations you know will likely lead to negative interactions. Find trusted, like-minded people who will help you feel supported and less alone. They can bring objectivity to the situation and help brainstorm ways to deal with a difficult person. And, sometimes all we really want is to vent and feel heard. Knowing that your peeps have your back can give you the resilience and strength to handle almost anything.

If someone is constantly needling you and focusing on your flaws , you can equalize the power dynamic by applying pressure on them to reduce their difficult behavior. This will only give them more power. Instead, flip the script and put the spotlight on them. The best way to neutralize their influence is to start asking constructive and probing questions.