Do we only see what we want to see?

Observational bias occurs when scientific researchers only look for results where they believe they will find a positive outcome, or where observations are easy to record.  This is often referred to as the streetlight effect.  In a more literal sense, do we take notice of what is in the shadows?  Do we see everything that is there, or just what we want to see?  By using motifs from everyday objects in my work and showing the connection to a historical or cultural reference, I will be taking notice of what others bypass and bring it into focus.

Confirmation bias is a psychological theory that says human observations are biased towards confirming the viewer’s conscious and unconscious beliefs.  That is, you’ll see what you expect to see.

The work of the Surrealist painter Rene Magritte “challenges observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality”, and is illustrated by the work Le Blanc-Seing.  What do you see when you look at the image?  Look again.  Do you see something different this time?  Is the image different to how you first viewed it?  Are you seeing what is really there, or what you want to see?

Le Blanc-Seing, 1965 (literal translation: "The Blank Signature")

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.”  Rene Magritte

With my work I’ll be showing an audience a motif they’ve seen before, in a way they haven’t seen it yet; they will see something they might recognise although it will be in a form they didn’t expect.


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