Study Suggests That Open-Minded People Have a Different Visual Perception of Reality

Study Suggests That Open-Minded People Have a Different Visual Perception of Reality

Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.” – Pablo Picasso

An open-minded person is widely receptive to new ideas, concepts, and opinions. To be open-minded is to be without prejudice, to perceive or listen to several interpretations or accounts without having sentimental attachments to anyone. They can take in the thoughts and ideas of others and process the information without losing their ability to reason meaningfully. They cannot be confused; rather they can be convinced. 

A recent study suggests that open-mindedness as a character trait affects the way a person visually perceives reality. [1] Open-minded people do not merely have a broader outlook on life and logic, but it possibly extends to their physical senses as well.

Imagine a group of little children admiring a tiny bird on a little tree. Every child is captivated by the wonderful colors on the bird’s feathers, except for one. This particular kid has spotted larger talon markers on a nearby branch, obviously not from the tiny bird. He begins to conceive thoughts of the bird’s mother and why the tiny creature is all alone. The open-minded child did not perceive the sight as other children did. While he saw the colorful feathers, of course, his mind interpreted the scene in more ways than one.

Seeing it both ways — literally

A study published in 2017 in the Journal of Research in Personality reports that open-minded people may be able to perceive things in reality differently and more intensely than others. [2] The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Melbourne, and it involved 123 volunteers who were examined with the Big Five Personality Test. The BFPT gauges the intensity of these five personality traits in a person: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. The last trait, openness, involves an active imagination and intellectual curiosity. 

The researchers then tested for binocular rivalry, a phenomenon in which visual perception is alternated between two images presented to the eye. The participants were asked to stare at two incompatible red and green patches placed over each eye. Most people would alternate quickly between the red and green colors.

However, it was discovered that people who scored higher on the openness test subconsciously try to merge the two images into one red-green patch. The researchers described this as evidence of creativity in open-minded people since the effortless merging was a sort of “creative solution to the problem presented by the two incompatible stimuli.”

Inattentional blindness and selective attention

According to lead researcher Anna Antinori, since our brains cannot possibly process everything the senses pick up, it selectively filters what information to process at any given time.

“The ‘gate’ that lets through the information that reaches consciousness may have a different level of flexibility. Open people appear to have a more flexible gate and let through more information than the average person,” Antinori explained.

Open-minded people tend to pick up and process more information than other people. Selective attention also leads to inattentional blindness, a phenomenon where a person is unable to notice a fully-visible but unexpected object because their attention was fully focused on something else. A person could be so engrossed in a movie that they don’t notice other people walking in and out of the room.

A standard test for selective attention is shown in the video below:

It is said that 50% of people will not notice the gorilla mascot who waved at the screen as he passed by. You could be so focused on counting the ball passes that you wouldn’t notice something so clearly contrasting and obvious on the screen. The brain would not think to process it because it’s unexpected.

Open-minded people would be more likely to spot the mascot than others. While the researchers report that personality has an impact on visual perception, the brain mechanics of the process are still not clear. 

They theorize that neurochemicals in the brain may overlap or affect one another’s functions to correlate perception with personality.  

Thus the abundance of the same neurochemical, or lack thereof, may affect both one’s personality and low-level vision,” Antinori explained.

The entire research, with its established phenomenon and speculative theories, gives rise to another fact: personality traits are not fixed. Alteration in psychological function and medication could affect binocular rivalry. This means that people can be trained to be more open-minded and increase their perception of reality.

If there’s an open-minded person in your life, hold them close and cherish your relationship with them. They are your gateway to seeing the world in an infinite number of ways.


  1. Open-minded people have a different visual perception of reality. Quartz. Olivia Goldhill. June 4, 2017.
  2. Seeing it both ways: Openness to experience and binocular rivalry suppression. Science Direct. Antinori et al. Retrieved 19-12-19December 19, 2019.
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