Consciousness at The Barbican: A Lecture

Consciousness Barbican, Bury St Edmunds, suffolk graphic design

The right message isn’t enough – it has to be SEEN to be the right message.

On Saturday 2 March, Marcus du Sautoy, BBC presenter and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford – presented a performance lecture entitled ‘Consciousness’.

After briefly introducing how science has examined consciousness, what it means to be conscious and how humans experience it, he gave some examples of how the brain interprets information. One point I found particularly interesting was how he illustrated our brain’s preference of visual data over audio data.

Ba Ba Black Sheep

du Sautoy showed a video of himself mouthing three syllables repeatedly. Firstly, BA (as in “meet me at the BAr for a drink”). The sound of his voice could clearly be heard to pronounce what was seen. Then he mouthed FA (as in “a long long way to run”). Lastly, he said DA (as in “isn’t it DArk in here with the lights out?”). After hearing and seeing each syllable, du Sautoy revealed the illusion. While the video changed, the audio track was the same syllable – FA for each video clip. While you could see lips saying BA, FA and DA, you were actually only hearing BA all along. Your eyes told you that you were hearing something different, even though you really weren’t.

The idea was that your eyes told you what you were hearing. Once you knew the con, it was easy to spot the difference. But Marcus made a very interesting point.

The Eyes Have It

When we see one thing and hear another, our eyes rule. What we see is taken as being more important than the other senses. Even throughout the lecture, visual backdrops (animations, still images, video clips and visual effects) enhanced the lecture and made it more palatable, more easily retained.

Show, Don’t Tell

What does this mean to a business using marketing materials? It means that any message can be greatly enhanced, underscored and enforced with effective visuals. Spoken messages on videos can be received more effectively with the right combination of images. A website that conveys the right image visually is going to be received better than one that just has the right words.

Motion graphics showing processes and explaining points with animations are psychologically proven to have more impact than just text or just spoken words. By using the brain’s favourite sense, you can make your message really hit home