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Test Your Perceptiveness Skills In 13 Easy Steps

How perceptive are you? How perceptive should we be?

When fighting terrorists or Ebola, it’s certainly important to understand differences between good guys and bad guys and safe fevers and deadly fevers.

How much does understanding differences make it easier to perceive differences?

I have studied my fair share of stuff about the Middle East and am still far from an expert, yet the similar costumery, weaponry and tactics makes it challenging enough for me to perceive the difference between the teams…let alone the team members. I have wondered if the differences are perhaps…subliminal? I hope the experts are better at this, but from 15,000 feet, I have my doubts.

Because I have that intense case of curiosity, it got me thinking. Can we improve our perceptiveness? Does the data-deluge raining down on our life’s parade make it even more vital that we hone our perceptiveness skills so we can know what’s being thrown at us, and figure out what to do about it?

That’s when I turned to one of my most treasured periodicals, People Magazine. (I often refer to it as one vital part in the perfect trifecta that also includes The Economist and Vanity Fair). Several years ago, People Magazine beat the Mensa Magazine to the punch and launched their “spot the differences” photo contests. At first I hated them because I sucked. And then, after yet another issue featuring recycled news about dead Princess Diana and boring Maddox Jolie-Pitt, I decided to revisit the challenge. I kept at it through Britney’s relationships and rehabs and eventually…I sort of got better at it. I got more visually perceptive.

That’s what set me on my quest to see if there were other things I was missing. My goal was to see if I could practice enough to become more visually perceptive (and to find all 10 of the “spot the differences” items before the next royal family issue arrived).

Below are some of the images I practiced on. They aren’t “spot the differences” photos because I’m still mourning Joan Rivers death and George Clooney’s stupid decision to marry someone else. These are subliminal and sort of subliminal logos and advertisements with which you can test your perceptiveness. So just for fun (and maybe to improve your visual perceptiveness) give them a try and let me know how you do. Feel free to look below the photos to cheat. No one is watching…or are they?

Palmolive ad with man's arm


She may be soaking in it but whose arm is that?


Le Tour de France logoYou saw that bike so much faster than I did, right?


Guild of Food Writers logoThis is the logo for the Guild of Food Writers. A nib and a spoon. Brilliant.



skittles sex


 Skittles are scrumptious movie munchies, but what kind of rating should we give this Berry Explosion?


Pittsburgh zoo logo


I love this logo. It taught me to appreciate both the positive and negative spaces.



FedEx logo


Speedy and directional. When it absolutely must get there from left to right. 



Cher Heart of Stone cover


Skulls and Cher. It doesn’t get much better than that for me.



Tostitos logo

 If there was subliminal tequila with those chips and salsa dippers, I would be sold.



Baskin and Robbins logo

 Do they still have 31 flavors?



Eye erotic ad


I’ll leave this one to the eye of the beholder.



Goodwill logo


The G makes a familiar smile.




I don’t recall this on the Panera menu.


Bronx Zoo logo


You don’t have to be familiar with the Bronx skyline to appreciate this brilliant use of negative space. 

mother logoAhh…makes me miss my mama.


How’d you do? 

I don’t suggest looking for subliminal messages in every Absolute Vodka ad (that’s too easy), but I do think that practicing perceptiveness is a good thing. It can also be fun. Whether it’s perceiving differences in products we are shown or noticing what’s in our plain sight, a crisper perception is good skill to develop.

There are enough light and harmless things we miss that we can train ourselves to perceive. Whether they are fun or provocative logos and ads or more nuanced and complicated political messaging, the process of learning to perceive takes a certain kind of curiosity that starts with acknowledging that what we think we see isn’t always all that there is. In pointing out how hard it is to perceive the nuances of the global war on terror, I’m not making light of this terrifying caldron of extremism. However, we have to admit that what is happening with extremism is not only confusing to us due to our lack of understanding, it’s also hard for us to perceive the nuances. What makes it even scarier is that we know deep down that it’s even hard for the experts to perceive. We probably should all get better at it.


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