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Take a look at this picture and read it to yourself out loud.

Mispelled words

While you might’ve struggled a bit, you probably found a rhythm and were able to correctly say about 90% of the words on the first go around. How does that work when all of them were pretty horribly misspelled?

It’s not that much of the mystery when you realize you got a big hand up from your brain. Your brain is always trying to make order out of chaos when it observes things, and that’s why you were able to “fill in” the rest of the words. Even though only the first and last letter were spelled correctly.

Your eye and your brain take in about seven quadrillion bits(real number) of information a second, and it has to have a way of processing and categorizing all this information. If you didn’t, you might end up in the back corner of the room trying to lick your own elbow.

There are three things to understand when you’re observing with your naked eye or optics that can really enhance your observation.

  1. Scanning Right To Left

Whenever you scan an area, always member scan right to left. The reason you’re able to read the misspelled words was that your brain filled in the information as we read left to right.

You don’t want this to happen when you’re scanning or observing.

When you scan right to left, it’s the opposite way you are conditioned to read so you don’t automatically fill in the information. This technique will cause you to stop and actually process what you’re looking at.

If you scan a line of bushes from left to right, you’ll observe a bush, then another, then another… After seeing so many bushes in a row, what does your brain want the next item to be? Bush! Hopefully, it’s not somebody trying to evade your observation. Always scan right to left so your brain doesn’t try to fill anything in.

  1. Foveal Vision VS Peripheral Vision

Click to play awareness test

If you are surprised by this video, don’t feel bad. Most people get fooled the first time just like I did. There’s actually a vision component of why you didn’t see the object in the video.

While observing the movement, you were using your foveal vision. Foveal vision is your sharp central vision we used to read words on paper scan faces and everything else that requires fine detail. T

he only problem with fovea vision is that if you held a quarter at arm's length, that’s about how much you’re taking in at any given time. It’s kind of like walking around looking through McDonald’s straw all day. Everything else in your periphery is basically getting filled in by your brain. That’s why you probably missed the answer in the awareness test.

Our peripheral vision isn’t really good at seeing fine detail, but it’s excellent when spotting movement. This is one of our throwback survival mechanisms from when we weren’t exactly on top of the food chain.

We were kind of right there in the middle with everybody else for a while.

Back then, if something was moving, it could probably kill you. So, we got really good at spotting moving objects, especially any type of lateral movement. If you’re ever observing (eyes or optics) and you think you’ve spotted something that might be obscured, instead of staring right at it with your foveal vision, offset a little bit, and try to scan using your peripheral vision. You’ll spot movement much quicker that way.

  1. Positive Space VS Negative Space

When scanning, make sure you don’t only observe for places that your eye is naturally attracted to. Make sure you scan the positive AND the negative space.

Positive spaces are where your eye is naturally attracted to. These things typically take up mass like buildings, trees, signs, cars, etc. You can’t see through positive space, so our eyes naturally jump from positive space to positive space when scanning.

Negative spaces are all of the areas in between positive spaces. This is the “nothing” that an untrained person will probably just gloss over. Good camouflage is designed to look like negative space, so your eyes are not naturally attracted to it.

A good example of positive and negative space would be the front of the building with the windows open.

positive space

Most people’s eyes would be attracted to the face of the building that’s fairly obvious and well lit. Very few people would try to scan into the shadows of the open windows. The shadows in the open window are the negative space.

Don’t forget to scan for both to complete a careful observation.

Next time you’re out and about with a good pair of 8 to 10 power binocular’s, try to practice these three tips to really enhance the quality of your observation skills.

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