The Reality of Reality: A Tale of Five Senses

Source: World Science Festival YT Channel:

Your eyes and ears don’t tell you the truth. That’s not what they’re for. The senses evolved to enable us to survive and succeed in the world, not to represent it accurately. Now, for the first time, science is revealing exactly how the sense organs receive information, process it, and pass it to the brain, providing deep insight into why we experience the world the way we do—and what it might be like for future technology to transform such experiences, perhaps allowing us to see infrared light or feel magnetic north. Join an eminent group of neuroscientists and philosophers for an ear, tongue, nose and eye-opening adventure that challenges everything we experience in search of the true nature of reality.

PARTICIPANTS: Christine Constantinople, Donald Hoffman, Stavros Lomvardas, Beau Lotto, Anil Seth

MODERATOR: Elizabeth Vargas


This program is part of the BIG IDEAS SERIES, made possible with support from the JOHN TEMPLETON FOUNDATION.

0:00 - Program introduction
0:40 - Beau Lotto perceptual biases demonstrations
9:01 - Panelist introductions
11:10 - What is accurate perception?
15:45 - Neural basis of decision biases
17:49 - The illusion of smell
19:07 - “The dress” photo illusion
26:02 - Has our survival relied on one sense more than another?
28:21 - Contextual nature of the brain demonstration
33:00 - Does an independent reality exist?
35:09 - The umwelt
39:50 - How we perceive change
42:40 - Expectations vs. evidence in the sensory world
43:46 - Do some senses work faster than others?
49:50 - How does high emotion affect our senses?
50:43 - Synesthesia
57:00 - Neural networks studying perception
59:34 - The rubber hand illusion
1:04:20 - Do we really only have 5 senses?
1:06:52 - Parting thoughts on reality vs. perception


  • Produced by Andy Meyer
  • Associate Produced by Matt Carlstrom
  • Music provided by APM
  • Additional images and footage provided by: Venturebeat, Upload VR, Your Discovery Science
  • Recorded at Gerald W. Lynch Theatre at John Jay College