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The Science of Seeing Differently
Beau Lotto
Read by Beau Lotto

Hachette Audio
April 2017/ ISBN 978-1478909163
Nonfiction / Miscellaneous / Neuroscience of thought, behavior, and creativity - Audiobook (8.5 hours on 7 CDs)

Reviewed by Leslie C. Halpern


This fascinating new audiobook explores the tricky science of perception. The author, a renowned neuroscientist and two-time TED speaker, helps readers understand how evolution has trained our minds to form delusions about our life experience and thus aid survival. Written for a general audience of intellectually curious readers, the book challenges us to think about perception in a different way. Using interesting examples from the fields of science, literature, art, history and business, the book blends disciplines (along with a healthy dose of humor) and makes the sometimes difficult information more accessible to a wide readership.

One example comes from the author’s personal experience in creating and displaying a scientific art installation involving light and shadow on a white background. Immediately before the art opening, he discovered the lights were not functioning. While he was deciding whether or not to put up a sign announcing the exhibit was out of order, art lovers wandered into the gallery and started analyzing how the shadows of light (from unplanned incidental lighting in the venue) played upon the white background. So even without functioning properly, the installation was perceived properly; i.e., people saw what they were expecting to find.

An 82-page PDF of supplemental material includes optical illusions and illustrations demonstrating points made in the book. Although explanations of these visual challenges are scattered throughout the text in the audiobook, they are contained within the one PDF, which makes finding them while listening to the audio somewhat inconvenient. This separation of artwork from its related text is one drawback of experiencing the book on audio; one definite benefit of the audiobook is having the author read it himself. Lotto’s brilliance, enthusiasm, and playfulness come across clearly, and it’s doubtful anyone else could have presented the material so perfectly.

The description on the CD box promises to give readers a journey of self-discovery. For those open-minded enough to challenge their long-held assumptions, the book fully delivers on its promise of providing groundbreaking, perhaps life-changing, insights into how our brains see the world.

Reviewed 2017