Filling in the gaps

An interview with David Ariely seems to extend the notion that the brain is a “filling in the gaps”-machine

. Constructing narratives and realities based on only fragments, by creating the stories in between.

In this video found on Predictably/Irrational, via TIGS, Dan Ariely speaks of how research into online dating sites found that when people learned more about another person they turned out to “dislike” them more.

The reason being that when we know little we tend to fill in the blanks with information we find positive
. But what happens when given more knowledge is that our first assumptions might turn out to be false. The example given is that if one profile writes they like music, We tend to think they like our kind of music, but in fact they could like something completely opposite

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But it’s not only when we “construct reality” we tend to fill in the gaps.

Daniel Gilbert writes about how we remember past experiences in his book Stumbling Upon Happiness: When the brain stores memory, it stores only fragments of the experience, and what we do when we try to remember is fill in the blanks with what we presume or predict happened – and a lot of this “presuming” is heavily influenced by cultural norm and stereotypes
. (previously mentioned here)

I think Gilbert and Ariely is in one sense talking about the same operation but from two different perspectives. And what we can see from this is the brains fabulous ability to create “reality” based on only parts of the story, by filling in the gaps.

Couple this with the theory from the “knowledge industry” saying that “information is only knowledge when we link or combine it with something we already know – or else it’s just noise”. Gives a perspective into how important it is for marketers and advertisers not only to know the fragments, but also the extent and direction to which the gaps can be manipulated.