You only see what you know

I’m not sure if it’s a proven psychological phenomena, I guess I read or heard about it somewhere a long time ago, but I believe that if you don’t know something you don’t see it. That is your eyes will capture the image and send the appropriate signals through the optic nerve, but the brain doesn’t use that particular info.

How often haven’t you walked through the same street and never seen something that was always there. Once someone points it out to you you start seeing it everywhere.

Apparently same thing can be applied to sounds. In certain languages, think Chinese, Thai, etc., there are sounds that people who have not been exposed to that language long enough simply cannot hear, let alone reproduce. This can be frustrating when you want to learn such a language. As I’m a regular visitor of Thailand, Bangkok in particular, I like to try to learn some words whenever I’m there. Simple words. During the summer holiday with my boyfriend I was told, by my boyfriend who has studied the language for a month, that some of the words I got completely wrong. Turned out I couldn’t or could hardly hear the difference between a silent ‘k’ (silent but still pronounced every so slightly) and a non silent ‘k’.

So instead of making an expression polite, I made it impolite.

My boyfriend, though we are very much alike in many (many) ways, dresses very differently from me. He sometimes asks me which shirt or pants he should wear, and I usually say he should wear whatever he feels most comfortable with and I mean that. Or as Aussiebum likes to say ‘If in doubt yourself, wear something else’. Sometimes though I do point out that I really don’t like something.

For his birthday I treated him on a nice dinner at Supperclub in Amsterdam and he had prepared an outfit to wear. The main theme was ‘white’. When he showed me what he had put in the bag before flying from our Munich home to our Amsterdam home I told him that he should ditch the pants. ‘But you like white pants’ he said. That’s true but there are so many (subtle) things that make one pair of white pants perfect and another pair unsuitable for the occasion. I guess it’s the same principle of not having been exposed to things like that when he grew up or (perhaps more likely) he has never found them interesting enough to register them.

So I was asked what exactly I didn’t like about that particular pair of white pants. Turns out that my sweetheart, simply put, doesn’t see the difference between one pair of white pants and the next. I found that interesting. Later on it became even clearer that he seems to be impervious to some details that make or break a style. My fashion taste is all over the style board but whatever I put together matches (at least that’s what I like to think LOL).

One style I like sometimes is ‘trashy’, tee-shirt, sweatpants, sneakers (and baseball cap).

So we were walking in the streets and my boyfriend pointed out a guy and said that he was wearing pants that I like so much. I look and the guy was wearing something I would never wear. Sure he was wearing jogging/sweat pants but everything about them was wrong. The wrong cut, the wrong colour, wrong pockets, wrong waist band, etc.

He sees only the fact that they are sweatpants not all the details that make or break the style. Long live our different views.

Someone who sees everything is Anna Wintour.

A recent issue of WSJ Magazine with a feature called ‘The Business of being Anna‘ was the inspiration for writing this post. I haven’t read it yet but you can find the online version here and go see ‘September Issue‘ a documentary about how she puts together the bible for all fashionistas Vogue’s September Issue.

Anna Wintour shot by Mario Testino for WSJ Magazine

(Anna Wintour photographed by Mario Testino (C) WSJ Magazine)


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