In romance movies and novels there’s always that scene where the boy stares at the girl, studying her (or vice versa). He does it to appreciate her and engrave her features into his mind so that when he can’t see her in person, he can see her clearly in his mind.

I’m guilty of doing that. A lot. However, I have a confession. With the people I love, I can never seem to perfectly pull their images inside of my head. I can see them vaguely, but it’s not clear at all, and it doesn’t feel complete. I used to be ashamed of it, and I can’t say that I’m not anymore, but I think I’ve come upon a theory as to why this happens to me.

In psychology and biology, I learned that the brain does not actually see everything because it is too hard to concentrate on everything at once and there may be obstacles blocking its proper view of something. The brain fills in those gaps for us, so we feel like we have a better view of the world. That is why it feels like you are taking in everything and you can see something even if it’s a girl behind a window. Let’s say if you were to step back and take a look at all of the bookshelves at the library, it feels like you’re seeing all of the books on the shelf, but that’s not possible to see every detail and it is the work of the brain to fill in the gaps of missing information so that you can evaluate your environment better. Or if you were looking at a girl behind a window, she is a whole girl inside your head, and you know that’s not just a decapitated girl peeking at you through the window. (Here’s a short little article about the brain filling in gaps)

Anyway, after that lovely science lesson, I kind of feel like that explains this weird problem of mine.

No matter how well I know a person and how much I study every single detail, for some reason my brain just can’t see everything at once, so it proceeds to fill it in for me when I think about a person and see their image inside of my mind. And when I am recalling memories, it is actually recalling a lot of filled in gaps, which is why I feel like the image is not so clear. Maybe this is the same thing that happens to other people too, except they can’t truly see the results of the filled in gaps (thus making them claim that they can see a face clearly in their heads). But I can (thus making me claim that I cannot see a face clearly in my head).

Of course, now that makes me sound like an anomaly… I have no idea if this is only me, if it’s other people too, if someone’s thought about this before, if this is scientifically proven, etc. etc. but I just thought I’d confess and document it in my blog. It’s been bothering me for many years.

Also, I forgot to mention why this only happens when I think about “loved ones.” I think it’s because the people I love are obviously important to me, and I would like to remember every single detail and see them with precision. I care about them that much. However, with people less intimate such as mere acquaintances, I obviously will not even care enough to try to remember what they looked like and every single detail about their faces.

So when and if I ever tell someone I can’t see them clearly inside my head, that’s actually a loving compliment. Weird, I know.