I would like to know if there is any research into the latency of human perception. Particulary:

  • What is the minimum time for various inputs (vision, touch, sound) to be recognized by the conscious mind?
  • How different are these times? (Loud sound vs sense of touch in your toe)
  • Given the above, is there a number we can put on how many milliseconds behind reality the human mind is?
  • $\begingroup$ are you the same person from the youtube channel that makes the picture videos or are you just using his name? $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2014 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ I'm the guy from YouTube. $\endgroup$
    – CGP Grey
    Jun 18, 2014 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ awesome to know.. i am subscribed to ur channel.. fan of ur work.. this probably is ur next project.. will try and answer ur question if i get good references.. $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2014 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


There is a huge amount research into this subject. It is vast and nebulous as such I cannot give you an overall picture of this. I can however illustrate some of the complexities to this.

Firstly I would say that what you mean by human perception is extremely complex, there are different modalities of perception. For example in terms of a visual stimulus, we may simply perceive its basic shape, outline, colour, whether or not it is moving. We then may also perceive higher levels of information such as the function of the object. Similarly there are different aspects to other stimuli.

These different components of perception are transmitted by different neurons leading to the brain and then processed by different areas of the brain suited to specific tasks and then are integrated together to give us a conscious idea of what the object is.

Therefore when measuring the latency of human perception you would first have to decide what exactly you mean by this?

The other aspect is that a lot of study has occurred in this area as we are aware that perception can be altered by states of illness (for example audio evoked responses in schizophrenia, or visual evoke responses in multiple sclerosis). The perception of pain is yet another huge area of study.

Again this is such a vast area of research that I wouldn't really know where to point you to. However for a entertaining read on how perception can change in neurology I would recommend reading the books of Oliver Sacks, in particularly "The Man Mistook His Wife for a Hat" and an "Anthropologist on Mars".

I am sorry I haven't provided you with more detail but good luck in reading around this subject. If you are more specific about what perceptions, (e.g. perception of faces, perception of danger etc..) then maybe you will receive more specific answers.

  • $\begingroup$ If I had to pin it down, my question is really 'how far behind the current moment is the conscious mind?' $\endgroup$
    – CGP Grey
    Jun 18, 2014 at 13:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Again that is very difficult, first of all there is no real understanding of what consciousness is, and we also know that we become consciously aware of different things at different rates. This conscious awareness is highly variable. Take the conscious awareness of pain, this is highly dependant on type of pain, where it happens, what your underlying state of mind is. How would we ever measure such a thing? What we do know are things like reaction times, how long it takes for various stimuli to reach the brain, how we process input on different levels, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Spinorial
    Jun 18, 2014 at 13:48

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