Watch for eyes: scientists are sure that human thoughts are material


Researchers from Tomsk State University and New Bulgarian University claim that human thoughts are able to materialize an object. They published the results of their experiments in the article “Remember down, look down, read up: Does a word modulate eye trajectory away from remembered location?” in the journal Cognitive Processing. The authors of this article are researchers from NBU Armina Janyan and Ivan Vankov, and TSU researchers Oksana Tsaregorodtseva and Alex Miklashevsky.

How does language influence the person’s perceptions of space and particularly those familiar to everyone for the essential dimensions "up-down", "left-right" that surround us from birth to death? The scientists based their research on the idea of so-called mental stimulation, in order to show that human thought is material.

- We wanted to check whether the meaning of words can influence mental simulation, that is, the "play" of the situation in the head, which helps to predict the possible scenario of a situation, to understand and to feel it better. In our experiment we asked subjects to remember the location of the point at which we wrote the words ("up" or "down"), -  said Oksana Tsaregorodtseva. - The results indicated that reading the words activated the part of space that is denoted by these words even if at that moment the person was focused on another process, for example, memorizing the location point. The word is able to enhance the sense of reality of the object in space, despite the fact that there are no objects or words there.

Recent data show us that mental simulation is not much different from the real situation in terms of its perception by our brain. For the brain the real situation and simulation is the same event.

Recent experiments conducted by scientists in Europe suggest that the mere attempt to remember the spatial position of a point on the screen can affect the trajectory of our glance. For example, if one memorizes the position of the point in the upper left corner of the screen, and then he or she is asked to look up already at a blank screen, the trajectory of his glance focuses on the opposite side of the point.

This effect is explained by the mental simulation: while the position of the point is held in the person’s in working memory, it is so active that it forces a person to "go around" this place - as if there is something there. A word, being an inherently intangible and abstract thing, nevertheless behaves like a material thing reinforcing the feeling of a real object in space.

The scientists note that the study is at the early stage, but one can see the further application of the results in neuropsychology, for example, to help people with impaired spatial perception.