The central idea here is that perception is a process of active interpretation geared toward adaptive interaction with the world through the body rather than a recreation of the world within the mind. The contents of our perceptual worlds are controlled hallucinations, brain-based best guesses about the ultimately unknowable causes of sensory signals. And for most of us, most of the time, these controlled hallucinations are experienced as real. As Canadian rapper and science communicator Baba Brinkman suggested to me, when we agree about our hallucinations, maybe that is what we call reality.

But we do not always agree, and we do not always experience things as real. People with dissociative psychiatric conditions such as derealization or depersonalization syndrome report that their perceptual worlds, even their own selves, lack a sense of reality. Some varieties of hallucination, various psychedelic hallucinations among them, combine a sense of unreality with perceptual vividness, as does lucid dreaming. People with synesthesia consistently have additional sensory experiences, such as perceiving colors when viewing black letters, which they recognize as not real. Even with normal perception, if you look directly at the sun you will experience the subsequent retinal afterimage as not being real. There are many such ways in which we experience our perceptions as not fully real

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