The Science of Seeing Differently


By Beau Lotto

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Beau Lotto, the world-renowned neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and two-time TED speaker, takes us on a tour of how we perceive the world, and how disrupting it leads us to create and innovate.

Perception is the foundation of human experience, but few of us understand why we see what we do, much less how. By revealing the startling truths about the brain and its perceptions, Beau Lotto shows that the next big innovation is not a new technology: it is a new way of seeing.

In his first major book, Lotto draws on over two decades of pioneering research to explain that our brain didn’t evolve to see the world accurately. It can’t! Visually stunning, with entertaining illustrations and optical illusions throughout, and with clear and comprehensive explanations of the science behind how our perceptions operate, Deviate will revolutionize the way you see yourself, others and the world.

With this new understanding of how the brain functions, Deviate is not just an illuminating account of the neuroscience of thought, behavior, and creativity: it is a call to action, enlisting readers in their own journey of self-discovery.


The only true voyage of discovery…
[would be] to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another.

—Marcel Proust


The Lab of Misfits

When you open your eyes, do you see the world as it really is? Do we see reality?

Humans have been asking themselves this question for thousands of years. From the shadows on the wall of Plato's cave in The Republic to Morpheus offering Neo the red pill or the blue bill in The Matrix, the notion that what we see might not be what is truly there has troubled and tantalized us. In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that we can never have access to the Ding an sich, the unfiltered "thing-in-itself " of objective reality. Great minds of history have taken up this perplexing question again and again. They all had theories, but now neuroscience has an answer.

The answer is that we don't see reality.

The world exists. It's just that we don't see it. We do not experience the world as it is because our brain didn't evolve to do so. It's a paradox of sorts: Your brain gives you the impression that your perceptions are objectively real, yet the sensory processes that make perception possible actually separate you from ever accessing that reality directly. Our five senses are like a keyboard to a computer—they provide the means for information from the world to get in, but they have very little to do with what is then experienced in perception. They are in essence just mechanical media, and so play only a limited role in what we perceive. In fact, in terms of the sheer number of neural connections, just 10 percent of the information our brains use to see comes from our eyes. The rest comes from other parts of our brains, and this other 90 percent is in large part what this book is about. Perception derives not just from our five senses but from our brain's seemingly infinitely sophisticated network that makes sense of all the incoming information. Using perceptual neuroscience—but not only neuroscience—we will see why we don't perceive reality, then explore why this can lead to creativity and innovation at work, in love, at home, or at play. I've written the book to be what it describes: a manifestation of the process of seeing differently.

But first, why does any of this really matter to you? Why might you need to deviate from the way you currently perceive? After all, it feels like we see reality accurately… at least most of the time. Clearly our brain's model of perception has served our species well, allowing us to successfully navigate the world and its ever-shifting complexity, from our days as hunter-gatherers on the savannah to our current existence paying bills on our smartphones. We're able to find food and shelter, hold down a job, and build meaningful relationships. We have built cities, launched astronauts into space, and created the Internet. We must be doing something right, so… who cares that we don't see reality?

Perception matters because it underpins everything we think, know, and believe—our hopes and dreams, the clothes we wear, the professions we choose, the thoughts we have, and the people whom we trust… and don't trust. Perception is the taste of an apple, the smell of the ocean, the enchantment of spring, the glorious noise of the city, the feeling of love, and even conversations about the impossibility of love. Our sense of self, our most essential way of understanding existence, begins and ends with perception. The death that we all fear is less the death of the body and more the death of perception, as many of us would be quite happy to know that after "bodily death" our ability to engage in perception of the world around us continued. This is because perception is what allows us to experience life itself… indeed to see it as alive. Yet most of us don't know how or why perceptions work, or how or why our brain evolved to perceive the way it does. This is why the implications of the way the human brain evolved to perceive are both profound and deeply personal.

Our brain is a physical embodiment of our ancestors' perceptual reflexes shaped through the process of natural selection, combined with our own reflexes as well as those of our culture in which we are embedded. These in turn have been influenced by the mechanisms of development and learning, which results in seeing only what helped us to survive in the past—and nothing else. We carry all of this empirical history with us and project it out into the world around us. All of our forebears' good survival choices exist within us, as do our own (the mechanisms and strategies that would have led to bad perceptions are selected out, a process that continues to this day, every day).

Yet if the brain is a manifestation of our history, how is it ever possible to step outside the past in order to live and create differently in the future? Fortunately, the neuroscience of perception—and indeed evolution itself—offers us a solution. The answer is essential because it will lead to future innovations in thought and behavior in all aspects of our lives, from love to learning. What is the next greatest innovation?

It's not a technology.

It's a way of seeing.

Humans have the wild and generative gift of being able to see their lives and affect them just by reflecting on the process of perception itself. We can see ourselves see. That is what this book is fundamentally about: seeing your see or perceiving your perception, which is arguably the most essential step in seeing differently. By becoming aware of the principles by which your perceptual brain works, you can become an active participant in your own perceptions and in this way change them in the future.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice follows a white rabbit down a hole and ends up in a world in which fantastical things happen. She grows in size; time is eternally stopped for the Mad Hatter at 6 p.m.; the Cheshire Cat's grin floats in the air, sans the cat. Alice must navigate this bizarre new environment and at the same time maintain her sense of self, no easy task for anyone, let alone a child. The book Alice in Wonderland underscores the virtue of being adaptive when confronting shifting circumstances. From the perspective of neuroscience, however, there is a much more powerful lesson: We're all like Alice all the time—our brains must process strange new information arising from unpredictable experiences every single day, and provide us with useful responses—except that we didn't have to drop through the rabbit hole. We're already deep inside it.

My goal in Deviate is to reveal the hidden wonderland of your own perception to you as my more than 25 years of research have revealed it to me. You don't have to be a so-called "science person." Although I'm a neuroscientist, I'm not just interested in the brain only, since neuroscience is so much bigger than just the brain. When neuroscience is applied outside the disciplines it is traditionally associated with—such as chemistry, physiology, and medicine—the possibilities are not just immense, but fantastically unpredictable. Neuroscience—when defined more broadly—has the potential to impact everything from apps to art, web design to fashion design, education to communication, and perhaps most fundamentally, your personal life. You're the only one seeing what you see, so perception is ultimately personal. Understanding of the brain (and its relationship to the world around you) can affect anything, and lead to startling deviations.

Once you begin to see perceptual neuroscience this way, as I did several years ago, it becomes hard to stay in the lab… or at least the more conventional, staid conception of what a "lab" is. So, a decade ago I began redirecting my energies toward creating brain-changing, science-based experiences for the public: experiment as experience… even theater. The theme of one of my first installations at a leading science museum was Alice in Wonderland. The exhibit, much like Lewis Carroll's strange, topsy-turvy novel, took visitors through illusions intended to challenge and enrich their view of human perception. This first exhibit—which I created with the scientist Richard Gregory, a hero in perception who shaped much of what I (and we) think about the perceiving brain—grew into many other settings, all of them based on the belief that to create spaces for understanding we need to consider not only how we see, but why we see what we do. To this end, I founded the Lab of Misfits, a public place open to anyone where I could conduct science "in its natural habitat," a playful and rule-breaking ecology of creativity. This was most dramatically the case when we took up residency in the Science Museum in London.

My Lab of Misfits has enabled me to bring together primatologists, dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers, children, teachers, mathematicians, computer scientists, investors, behavioral scientists, and of course neuroscientists in a place where concepts and principles unite, where the emphasis is on innovation, and where we passionately investigate things we care about. We've had an official "Keeper of the Crayons" and "Head Player" (not that kind of player—as far as we know). We've published papers on nonlinear computation and dance, bee behavior and architecture, visual music, and the evolution of plant development. We've created the world's first Immersive Messaging app that enables gifting in physical space using augmented reality, which allow people to re-engage with the world. We've initiated a new way to interact with the public called NeuroDesign, which combines those who are brilliant at telling stories with those who understand the nature of the stories the brain desires. We have created an education platform that, with the raison d'être of encouraging courage, compassion, and creativity, doesn't teach children about science but makes them scientists, and has resulted in the youngest published scientists in the world (and the youngest main-stage TED speaker). Many of the ideas in Deviate were created, prototyped, and embodied through experience in this physical and conceptual "Lab of Misfits" space. This means the book is also a product of all these misfits, the interactions between them, and even more significantly, our interactions with historic and contemporary misfits outside the lab.

This brings me to a key theme in the pages ahead: that perception isn't an isolated operation in our brains, but part of an ongoing process inside an ecology, by which I mean the relation of things to the things around them, and how they influence each other. Understanding a whirlpool isn't about understanding water molecules; it's about understanding the interaction of those molecules. Understanding what it is to be human is about understanding the interactions between our brain and body, and between other brains and bodies, as well as with the world at large. Hence life is an ecology, not an environment. Life—and what we perceive—lives in what I call "the space between." My lab, and all my research on perception, draws on this inherent interconnectedness, which is where biology, and indeed life itself, lives.

Now I have started all over again and built my lab into a book—hopefully a delightfully misfit one, shot through with deviations. This creates a sense of danger, not just for me but for you as well, since together we will need to question basic assumptions, such as whether or not we see reality. Stepping into such uncertainty isn't easy or simple. On the contrary, all brains are deathly afraid of uncertainty—and for good reason. To change a historical reflex will have unknown consequences. "Not knowing" is an evolutionarily bad idea. If our ancestors paused because they weren't sure whether the dark shape in front of them was a shadow or a predator, well, it was already too late. We evolved to predict. Why are all horror films shot in the dark? Think of the feeling you often have when walking through a familiar forest at night as compared to during the day. At night you can't see what's around you. You're uncertain. It's frightening, much like the constant "firsts" life presents us with—the first day of school, first dates, the first time giving a speech. We don't know what's going to happen, so these situations cause our bodies and our minds to react.

Uncertainty is the problem that our brains evolved to solve.

Resolving uncertainty is a unifying principle across biology, and thus is the inherent task of evolution, development, and learning. This is a very good thing. As you will have observed from experience, life is inherently uncertain because the world and the things that constitute it are always changing. And the question of uncertainty will become an increasingly pressing issue in all parts of our lives. This is because, as we and our institutions become more interconnected, we become more interdependent. When more and more of us are connected to each other, the effects of the metaphorical butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world are more quickly and more powerfully felt everywhere, increasing the pace of change (which is at the heart of a nonlinear, complex system). An increasingly connected world is also inherently more unpredictable. This creates fundamental challenges for living today, from love to leadership. Many of the most sought-after jobs today, from social media expert to web designer, weren't even around twenty years ago. A successful company, a thriving relationship, an environment free of dangers—the existence of these things today doesn't guarantee their continued existence tomorrow. You are never truly "untouched" in a connected, flux-filled world. There will always be events that blindside you, that you didn't predict, from the unforeseen change in weather spoiling your BBQ in London on a Saturday afternoon to those in London suddenly finding themselves living outside the European Union. This is why our brain evolved to take what is inherently uncertain and make it certain… every second of every day. The biological motivation of many of our social and cultural habits and reflexes, including religion and politics, and even hate and racism, is to diminish uncertainty through imposed rules and rigid environments… or in one's vain attempt to disconnect from a world that lives only because it is connected and in movement. In doing so, these inherited reflexes—by design—prevent us from living more creative, compassionate, collaborative, and courageous lives. With the making of this kind of certainty, we lose… freedom.

At Burning Man in 2014, I had an experience that has stayed with me—actually quite a few, but I'll share this one here. It was a profound—and profoundly simple—example of how deviating can radically change one's brain. As many know, Burning Man is a weeklong festival every August in the Nevada desert that brings together art, music, dance, theater, architecture, technology, conversation, and nearly 70,000 human beings. Costumes are ubiquitous—and at times a complete lack thereof (though often with body paint). It is a city-sized circus of free-form creativity… picture a giant pirate ship sailing along on wheels… that explodes on the desert floor, then vanishes seven days later, leaving absolutely no trace… an essential part of the Burning Man ethos.

On a windy day midway through the week, my partner Isabel and I were riding our bikes and getting to know the "city." Desert dust swirled, silting us and our goggles in a fine layer of beige. We ended up in a camp of people from a town on the southern edge of the Midwest and met a guy I'll call Dave. This was Dave's first year at Burning Man, and he said it was turning out to be a transformative experience for him. At first I internally rolled my eyes at this. Being "transformed" at Burning Man has become not just a cliché but almost an imposed aspiration. If you don't transform there, then you have somehow failed. But what is transformation? Of course, no one really knows because it is different for every person, which is why so many people at Burning Man hungrily chase signs of it all week, going around asking: "Have you been transformed?"

The more we talked to Dave, though, the more I realized he really was undergoing a deep shift in his perceptions of self and other. He was a computer programmer from a place with fundamentalist religious values and a narrow outlook on what was socially acceptable. In his town, you either learned to fit in or you were ostracized. Dave had learned to fit in… the business casual attire he wore at Burning Man reflected this. But it had clearly curtailed the possibilities of his life, curiosity, and imagination. Yet here he was, at Burning Man! It was the decision to be there that mattered. It was his choice… his intention enacted… to come, and the questioning manner he had brought with him.

As we stood there in his camp, he told us that the little green plastic flower that I saw stuck behind his ear—perhaps the least flamboyant adornment in Burning Man history—had provoked an epic struggle inside him. He had sat in his tent for two hours that morning weighing whether or not to wear the flower. It had forced him to confront a complex host of assumptions in his mind—about free expression, masculinity, aesthetic beauty, and social control. In the end, he gave himself permission to question these assumptions symbolically manifested in a plastic flower, and stepped out of his tent. He seemed both pleased and uncomfortable, and in my eyes far more courageous than most of the people out there in the Nevada desert that day in search of something powerful.

As a neuroscientist, I knew that his brain had changed. Ideas and actions previously out of his reach would now be available to him if he was willing to question his assumptions, and in doing so create a new, unknown terrain of wondering. As a person, I was moved.

This is what transformation looks like: Deviation toward oneself. So simple. So complex.

Nothing interesting ever happens without active doubt. Yet doubt is often disparaged in our culture because it is associated with indecision, a lack of confidence, and therefore weakness. Here I will argue exactly the opposite. That in many contexts, to "doubt yet do… with humility," like Dave, is possibly the strongest thing one can do. Doubt with courage and your brain will reward you for it through the new perceptions this process opens up. To question one's assumptions, especially those that define ourselves, requires knowing that you don't see the reality—only your mind's version of reality—and admitting this, not to mention accepting the possibility that someone else might know better. In the pages-based lab of Deviate, not knowing is celebrated. The word "deviant" has all sorts of negative connotations, yet it comes from the verb "deviate," which simply means not to take the established route. Whereas politicians emphasize unchanging routes, in our cultures we also idolize people who are deviators, from Rosa Parks and Oscar Wilde to William Blake, because we admire and are thankful for the unestablished routes they took… usually in hindsight, much more rarely in the present (indeed, like so many others, Blake's work only came to be understood for its true value long after his death). The vast majority of Hollywood superhero movies are predicated on deviance. Have you ever met an average hero?

Doubt is the genesis of powerful, deviating possibilities. In this way, the human brain is able to shed constricting assumptions and see beyond the utility with which the past has trained it to see. As I like to say, the cash is in the questions.

Be Delusional

The doubt-driven ride this book will take you on is going to physically change your brain. This isn't braggadocio, but a fact-based understanding of everything from the electric patterns of your thoughts to the neurons of your emotions. The simple act of reading can change your brain because two and a half decades of research have led me to one indisputable conclusion: what makes the human brain beautiful is that it is delusional.

I'm not talking about insanity. What I'm getting at has to do with the brain's imaginative powers of possibility and how richly they interact with behavior. We can all hold mutually exclusive realities in our minds at the same time, and "live" them out imaginatively.

Human perception is so layered and complex that our brains are constantly responding to stimuli that aren't real in any physical, concrete sense, but are just as vitally important: our thoughts. We are beautifully delusional because internal context is as determinative as our external one. This is verifiable at the neural level: fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for tracking brain activity through blood flow) show that an imagined scenario lights up brain regions the same way the real-life equivalent scenario does. In other words, ideas and thoughts and concepts have lives inside of us. They are our history, too, and directly feed our current and (maybe more importantly) future behavior. As such, our perception is much more plastic and subject to influence than we're often aware of or comfortable admitting. The stock market tends to go up when it's sunny, and down when it's not. The seemingly rational decisions we make, then, are actually guided by "invisible" forces of perception that we're not even conscious of.

Another example: In 2014 the Lab of Misfits organized our first party/study, an initiative we call The Experiment, which is designed to do many things. One is to improve the quality of scientific research by taking it out of the artificial situation of a lab and into authentic human situations. The situation we engineered was a true social gathering in which people ate and drank and talked in an old crypt with strangers with a larger theatrical context. For the participants it was designed to be purposefully ambiguous as to whether it was science, a nightclub, an interactive theater and/or cabaret, but it was a memorable experience in which they also served as subjects in an experiment-as-experience. The goal of The Experiment is to discover, challenge and raise awareness through "empirical embodiment" of what it is to be human. One of our experiences sought specifically to see whether people group themselves depending on how they perceive themselves as either powerful or not.

After the food, once everyone was full, relaxed, and enjoying themselves, we had people do a brief writing exercise to prime them into a perceptual state. Depending on the memory they were prompted to recall, they were primed into either a low-power state, a higher-power state, or a neutral-power state. What this means is that their recollection prompted them to unconsciously perceive themselves to be either less or more in control. We then had them walk in a large concentric circle within a big underground crypt space in a Victorian jail in East London. Next, we asked them to segregate themselves under two lights at opposite ends of the room—in short, to stand next to the people who "feel like you." That's all we said.

What happened shocked the guests as much as it did us scientists. Without knowing who had been primed in which way, the people organized themselves according to their power-state with two-thirds accuracy. This means that well over half the people in each corner were with other people "like themselves." This was astounding for two reasons: One, it showed how strongly the participants' simple thoughts about themselves changed their own behavior; that is, their imagining changed their perceptual responses. Two, the people somehow perceived the imaginatively primed perceptions of others. What a wondrous example of how delusions affect not only our behavior, but the ecology in which we interact as well. In the chapters ahead, you will learn how to make your brain's delusional nature enhance your perception.

I want to create a fresh layer of meaning in your brain that will be as real as anything else that has affected your perception—and your life. The narrative of this book embodies the process I'm going to teach you. I constructed it so that reading from first page to last is seeing differently. It will allow you to experience what creativity feels and looks like from the inside. Think of it as a software solution for your perception. When you're done with the book, you simply change the context and reapply the software. Perhaps the most encouraging part is that you don't have to acquire a new base of knowledge.

To fly a plane, you first have to train as a pilot, which involves a tremendous amount of specialization and practice. But in order to deviate into new perceptions, you already have the basics. You don't have to learn to see and perceive. It's an essential part of who you are, if not the essential part. In this sense, you already have a firsthand account of the subject of this book. Furthermore, the process of perception is the same process by which you change perception. This means you are your own pilot (in the context of your larger ecology). My task is to use the science of your brain to teach you a new way to fly, and to see anew what you thought you had already seen.

One of the ways I will do this is by applying my knowledge of perception to your reading experience. For example, the brain thrives on difference… on contrast, since only by comparing things is it able to build relationships, which is a key step in creating perceptions. This is why you will find deviant design elements, such as varying font sizes and occasionally puzzling images. On the page you will also find exercises, tests, and self-experiments that require your participation. (They won't be tedious; in one I'm going to make you hold your eye open and momentarily "go blind.") When I began Deviate, I wanted to challenge assumptions about what a science book could be—my own step into uncertainty. What better space to do this than in a work about innovation and the brain, using the brain as my guide? This book is different in other ways as well.

In my view, as soon as you've told something to someone, you've taken the potential for a deeper meaning away from them. True knowledge is when information becomes embodied understanding: We have to act in the world to understand it. This is why Deviate will not give you recipes. Instead of a how-to guide that offers task-specific formulas, I will give you principles that transcend any single context. Just because you are able to make one fantastic meal by following a recipe doesn't mean you are now a great cook; it means you are good at following the instructions of a great cook. While it may have worked once, it hasn't given you the wisdom to make your own fantastic meal, as you have no idea why the recipe is a good one. Understanding why the recipe is a good one (and how) is one key aspect of what makes a chef a chef.

Deviate is designed to innovate your thinking by giving you new awareness, which creates the freedom to change. The first half will explore the mechanics of perception itself, making you reconsider the "reality" you see and helping you to know less than you think you know now. Yes: that is my aim, for you to actually know less overall, while understanding more. The second half will then make this understanding practical by giving you a process and technique to deviate in your life.


  • "Deviate is an entertaining read that raises fascinating questions about how we perceive the world. Aside from being an accomplished scientist, Lotto is a talented writer who uses illustrative examples and visual experiments to dazzle and to teach."—The Washington Post
  • "Provocative...a radical philosophy of perception...balanced by many astute observations."—Nature
  • "Beau Lotto's Deviate is the beginning of a conversation-with yourself. Based on my years working at Pixar and with Tibetan Buddhist meditation masters, Beau is on exactly the right track for using neuroscience to understand the mechanisms that keep us stuck and the power of paying attention to the mind. And he does it with an infectious enthusiasm that cannot help but draw the reader into this engaging material."—Lawrence Levy, former CFO of Pixar Animation Studiosand author of To Pixar and Beyond
  • "Lotto, a brilliant neuroscientist, explains why our perceptual hardwiring makes it difficult for us to live with uncertainty...His insights help us understand the mindset and talents-like asking great questions-that can help people live in the future as opposed to the past. Deviate shows us how to reengineer our brains and prepare ourselves to lead and innovate in our organizations and lives."—Linda Hill, Professor of Business Administration atHarvard Business School and author of Becoming a Manager
  • "Deviate is a more accessible, fun, interactive version of Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow-involving the reader in building an active understanding of the value of relying on perception as well as reason, and doing so in enjoyable ways. Beau Lotto is a powerful storyteller who bridges peer-reviewed science and the creative arts in rare ways to offer actionable insights."—David Rowan, Editor-in-Chief Wired (UK edition)
  • "[A] sprightly look into the nature of things.... Among Lotto's most valuable contributions to our lay understanding of perception and thinking is his formulation of perception as an 'ecology,' meaning 'the relation of things to the things around them, and how they influence each other....' Lotto's provocative investigation into the mysterious workings of the mind will make readers just that much smarter."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Beau Lotto is one of the most creative scientists I know, and his passion for introducing neuroscience to the public ranks him among those rare communicators like Carl Sagan whose ideas can change peoples' thinking. At a time when many neuroscientists are pursuing the mindless goal of mapping all the connections in the human brain, Beau is right on target in his conviction that science advances by doubting the conventional wisdom and asking simple questions in a novel way."—Dale Purves, Professor Emeritus at the Duke Institutefor Brain Sciences and member of the National Academy of Sciences
  • "Beau Lotto is the ideal writer for a popular book about the neuroscience of perception. He has already proved himself to be an immensely engaging and daring populariser of science. Above all, he is well-established neuroscientist who really knows what he is talking about. In this book he will convince you that our every-day experience of seeing is far more mysterious and exciting than it seems."—Chris Frith, Professor of Neuroscience at UniversityCollege London
  • "In a brilliant and skillful way Beau Lotto pulls the rug from under our naive view of reality-bit by bit. In reading this book, we discover how our conventional way of seeing, of perceiving reality, is incomplete and illusory. He begins to dismantle this illusion by showing us why we see the world the way we do, and in doing so he opens the curtain to a new beginning, a new beginning of seeing past our individual interpretation of reality, to recognize that others may surely have a different interpretation. In daring us to deviate Lotto encourages us to discover that compassion has a root that can be revealed through scientific insights."—Peter Baumann, Founder of Tangerine Dream
  • "In Deviate, Beau Lotto's remarkable research into human perception is crystallized into a series of astute explanations of how we experience reality. By bringing together an 'ecology of the senses' that goes beyond the mechanisms of the eye, Lotto's ingenious account of the brain's perceptive evolution arrives at an extraordinary proposition of how we can go beyond our current ways of seeing. Following Olafur Eliasson's words that 'what we have in common is that we are different,' Deviate unravels the bind to our human history in order to foresee a radically different future for a reconfigured, individual perception. It is a brilliant book!"—Hans Ulrich Obrist, Director of the Serpentine Gallery(London)
  • "This is a neuroscience book that, while explaining what we know about the brain's functioning, explores the deeply personal issue of perception. Beau Lotto's insights constitute a real breakthrough in our understanding of how we perceive (and react to, and imagine ourselves within) reality. And his capacity to make complex scientific concepts and research results easy to understand, and to explain their relevance to our life, makes this an utterly readable book."—Bruno Giussani, European director, TED
  • "Deviate by Beau Lotto promises to be a groundbreaking book that will be as entertaining as it is provocative. As human beings, we don't live in the world directly: we perceive and conceive it through many filters. What we do perceive is refracted through our own interests, dispositions and cultures and by the context in which we experience it. Deviate analyses and illustrates these processes with the precision and vitality that is the hallmark of Beau Lotto's work as a scientist and as a presenter. Among the libraries of quick fixes and formulaic programs, the need is growing too for well-grounded insights and tested strategies that reach to the roots of human understanding. Deviate is uniquely placed to meet this need. Given Beau Lotto's unique expertise and popularity, it will have a wide and enthusiastic audience."—Ken Robinson, former director of the Arts inSchools Project and author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion ChangesEverything
  • "Beau Lotto shows better than anyone else how dependent we are upon our own limited sensory perceptions of the world. The radical thesis that he presents in Deviate reveals to us that reality is relative, and that we, ultimately, are capable of changing our world through changing our perception of it."—Olafur Eliasson, Sculpture Artist and SpatialResearcher, founder of Studio Olafur Eliasson
  • "What if we all tried harder to be misunderstood? And what if we could embrace and channel our own misunderstanding of the world around us? Beau Lotto's Deviate honors the messy, imperfect genius of human perception as the most valuable resource for creative progress. Lotto is teaching us something so loudly fundamental to our existence, it seems almost impossible that we've missed it."—Ross Martin Executive VP, Marketing Strategy andEngagement, Viacom
  • "If Richard Branson were a neuroscientist, he would probably be Beau Lotto. A visionary scientist and thinker, Lotto helps us to see the world anew...This is going to be a wonderful, ground-shaking book that has the power to change its readers lives for the better."—John Bargh, James Rowland Angell Professor of Psychology
  • "His insights on human perception constitute a real breakthrough in our understanding of how we relate to (and react to, and imagine ourselves within) reality."—Bruno Giussani, European director of TED and curator of TEDGlobal
  • "Beau Lotto is ideally placed to write a popular trade book about seeing...he is one of the most original and innovative thinkers that I have encountered."—Ron Dennis CBE, Chief Executive and Chairman of the McLaren Group
  • "Beau Lotto engages us with a host of philosophical ideas and brain-changing experiences to explore why we see what we see and how we create. DEVIATE is beautifully written--giving us a truly novel, playful, and sophisticated window into the nature of human perception and innovation."
    Helen Fisher, Senior Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute and author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
  • "Combining evolutionary imperatives with modern imaging of the brain, Deviate helps us understand perception as the key to an individual's survival. It is written with humor, clarity, and delight. I highly recommend it."—Jeremiah Harrison, leadguitarist of the Talking Heads
  • "Beau Lotto has delivered a fresh, provocative, stimulating, revealing neuro-inspired, entertaining text on that most fugitive of subjects-reality... The world of theoretical and experimental neuroscience has much to offer us as we search to produce better environments for all."—Ian Ritchie, Director of Ian Ritchie Architects andarchitect of the largest free-standing glass building in the world
  • "Any reader interested in science, psychology, philosophy, or self-improvement willfind this groundbreaking work simultaneously engrossing and entertaining."—Booklist
  • "As a neuroscientist and a specialist in vision Beau Lotto opens up the subject of just how it is possible to actually see and understand anything in the world when it seems that meanings are always constructed somehow separately form the reality of what we see. This is done with immense clarity and ease...directly relevant to anyone involved in shaping our world-designers, engineers, and architects."—Alan Penn, Professor of Architectural and urbanComputing at University College London
  • "If someone else told me that reality is something we create in our heads-I'd up my medication. This brilliantly written book shows us that this is actually the road to liberation. We have the ability to change our internal landscapes, making our lives a masterpiece rather than a 'been there done that' cliché."—Ruby Wax, OBE, comedian,actress, mental health campaigner, and bestselling author of How Do You WantMe?
  • "By revealing the startling truths about the brain and perception, author Lotto shows that the next big innovation is not a new technology: it is a new way of seeing....With an innovative combination of case studies and optical and perception illusion exercises, Deviate will revolutionize the way you see the world."—The Week
  • "Deviate is the practical, enlightening, and groundbreaking guide that will not only provide an illuminating account of the neuroscience of thought, behavior, and creativity, it will ultimately motivate readers and thinkers everywhere to begin their own journey of self-discovery and reinvention."—Hawaii Reporter
  • "Renowned neuroscientist Beau Lotto has been working all over the world in both the academic world and the public sphere (in education, the arts, and business), helping advance our understanding of perception and the brain...[Deviate] leaves you with a question that I hope will entice you to visit your local bookstore today, so you can pick up the book and read on."—800 CEO Reads
  • "Explains why we can't see the world objectively--and humanity is better for it....DEVIATE challenges the very notion of how we think we see....By encouraging curiosity and learning to recognize and analyze our biases, we can create a culture driven by creativity and experimentation instead of safe stoicism."—Quartz
  • "Deviate is the practical, enlightening, and groundbreaking guide that will not only provide an illuminating account of the neuroscience of thought, behavior, and creativity, it will ultimately motivate readers and thinkers everywhere to begin their own journey of self-discovery and reinvention."—The Creativity Post

On Sale
Apr 25, 2017
Page Count
352 pages
Hachette Books

Beau Lotto

About the Author

Beau Lotto is a professor of neuroscience, previously at University College London and now at the University of London, and a Visiting Scholar at New York University. His work focuses on the biological, computational and psychological mechanisms of perception. He has conducted and presented research on human and bumblebee perception and behaviour for more than twenty-five years, and his interest in education, business and the arts has led him into entrepreneurship and engaging the public with science. In 2001, Beau founded the Lab of Misfits, a neuro-design studio that was resident for two years at London’s Science Museum and most recently at Viacom in New York. The lab’s experimental studio approach aims to deepen our understanding of human nature, advance personal and social well-being through research that places the public at the centre of the process of discovery, and create unique programmes of engagement that span the boundaries between people, disciplines and institutions. Originally from Seattle, with degrees from UC Berkeley and Edinburgh Medical School, he now lives in Oxford and New York.

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