The present moment, as you are experiencing it this very instant, is directly influenced by the previous 15 seconds of your life, reports Quartz. Researchers from MIT and the University of California, Berkeley, have dubbed this phenomenon the "continuity field," and according to a study they published last week in Nature Neuroscience, this effect could provide valuable background on how we pay attention to the task at hand — as well as how we don't.
Each instant is actually a combination of the last 15 seconds of our lives
To figure out how humans form their reality, the study's researchers devised an experiment in which they asked people to recall the orientation of short flashes of lines, called Gabor patches, on a computer screen. These series of flashes — the lines appeared once every five seconds — allowed the researchers to determine that although the most recent patch was the easiest to recall, the angle the participants remembered was usually slightly off, and tilted in the direction of the previous two. This, the researchers say, indicates that participants' reality was influenced by the previous two flashes, as well as the most recent one. They therefore concluded that each instant is actually a combination of the last 15 seconds of our lives.
The study was only done on 12 people, however, so researchers have a lot more work to do before we can get a clear picture of what each individual perceives as their reality. The researchers think that further research might prove useful for researchers who work on attention-deficit disorders. In any case, the fact that the past 15 seconds of our lives might influence our perception of the world so strongly is sort of mind blowing, because it means that our reality might always be slightly different from the real thing. Furthermore, it might mean that the differences in perception that we notice in others during daily interactions could actually be the result of real, tangible, unique, and individually-altered realities.