The funny thing about consciousness is how unconscious we are of all the nuanced ways our environment and physiology shape our subjective experience. A loud sound or bright flash of light may arrest our attention for a moment, but most of the time our brains are being bombarded with external stimuli and internal feedback that never quite becomes a focal point of our mental activity, even though it helps shape it.
A new research project by MIT Media Lab’s Xin Liu demonstrates the powerful influence these subtle inputs can exert on our conscious experience. It’s called Masque and it’s a wearable that purposely alters the user’s perception of their own breathing. By altering this input, Masque is able to shape user behavior and perception in predictable ways without needing explicit instructions.