Consciousness occurs in ‘time slices’ lasting only milliseconds, study suggests, by Peter Dockrill. Researchers Micahel Herzog and Frank Scharnowski from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL):
According to our model, the elements of a visual scene are first unconsciously analysed. This period can last up to 400 ms and involves, amongst other processes, the analysis of stimulus features such as the orientation or colour of elements and temporal features such as object duration and object simultaneity.
So consciousness is blissfully unaware of the low level processing:
After this analysis is complete, the researchers say the features we’ve detected are integrated into our conscious perception, compressing all the unconscious recording into something we’re actually aware of.
In other words, while we’re taking the world in, we’re not actually consciously perceiving it. Instead, we’re just mutely using our senses to record data for up to 400 ms at a time. Then, in what could be called a moment of clarity, we consciously perceive the stimuli that our senses have detected.
The team thinks this presentation of information to our consciousness lasts for about 50 milliseconds, during which we also stop taking new sensory information in. And then repeat.
From my experience as a soccer goalie, when sometimes the ball just seemed to fly past no matter how hard I focused on it, there might be something to this.