Have you ever wondered why you can't see your nose when you aren't paying attention to it? When you read this article, participate in a game, or watch a movie, does your nose distract you by coming into the field of view? Before knowing the answer to these questions, imagine entering your favourite Italian restaurant. When you first enter the room, the aroma of tomatoes and garlic is almost overpowering. When you settle down you only get the aroma of the food that's being cooked and not the scent of your perfume. This process is referred to as "unconscious selective attention”. We are kept alive and sane by our brain's propensity to ignore things that it considers "useless".
The brain, the "criminal master”, is the organ behind all of these problems. The brain is also the most complex organ in the body that regulates every bodily function. It is responsible for thought processes, memory recollection, feelings of hunger, emotions, and motor sensations like vision, auditory, olfactory, and tactile. One of the key functions of the brain is paying attention. The concept of attention includes both the things we choose to pay attention to and the ones we are able to tune out. We are aware that attention is selective and has a certain capacity, but how exactly do we weed out irrelevant information and focus our attention on what is most important?
Efficiency – the key factor
The fact is that you are always staring at your nose because it is in your field of vision. It just so happens that the brain filters it out. Why? Because it is sensory data that we do not require. The brain does not want you to be continually conscious of your nose. If nothing changes with your nose, your brain will conclude it doesn't need to register it. We are constantly inundated with innumerable blips of visual information, which our brain filters out and then combines to create usable perceptions of the outside world by weaving webs of connections between the blips.
The technique of selective attention
The information obtained from the senses is filtered and segregated, and only a certain amount of information is received as input. As the name suggests, "selective attention" refers to the processes that enable a person to choose and concentrate on a certain input while suppressing extraneous or distracting information. A never-ending stream of internal and external sensations, thoughts, and emotions are continually being thrown at us. It is astounding that we can make any sense of anything with the wealth of information accessible!
Why is the nose not visible in the field of vision?
Your nose will be more noticeable in your field of vision if it is medium or large in size because it will directly sit on the edge of the cone that extends from your eye. If you have a narrow nose or widely spaced eyes, it can be much further out of your range of vision. Your brain tends to focus on what's in the centre of the cone from each eye, and the outside fuzzes out, making it harder to see your nose. This is because the cone from each eye isn't a flawless image like a camera. The nose obstructs a portion of the visual field of both eyes, so when your brain receives the information from your eyes, it creates a whole image using the unobstructed data from both eyes. We don't pay as much attention to our nose because it is in our peripheral view. We are focused on things that are farther away while looking at something, so our nose is out of focus since it is so close to our eyes.
Finding your nose: where to look
That is not to say that you can never see your nose. The brain is a capable and analytical machine that constantly seeks to become more effective. Our bodies would need to eat more if our brains were less effective. Even though it only makes up 2% of our weight, the brain already consumes 20% of our energy. So let's all see beyond the tip of our noses. But if you want to see your nose just close one eye and your nose will be visible to you. When you open your eyes again, it vanishes. So let's be thankful for our finite attention spans and the built-in filters when it comes to our nose.