Hidden in Plain Sight: The Social Structure of Irrelevance (Paperback)
Many of us take for granted that what we perceive is a completely accurate representation of the world around us. Yet we have all had the experience of suddenly realizing that the keys or glasses that we had been looking for in vain were right in front of us the whole time. The capacity of our sense organs far exceeds our mental capabilities, and as such, looking at something does not guarantee that we will notice it. Our minds constantly prioritize and organize the information we take in, bringing certain things to the foreground, while letting others - that which we deem irrelevant - recede into the background. What ultimately determines what we perceive, and what we do not? In this fascinating book, noted sociologist Eviatar Zerubavel argues that we perceive things not just as human beings but as social beings. Drawing on fascinating examples from science, the art world, optical illusions, and all walks of life, he shows that what we notice or ignore varies across cultures and throughout history, and illustrates how our environment and our social lives - everything from our lifestyles to our professions to our nationalities - play a role in determining how we actually use our senses to access the world. A subtle yet powerful examination of one of the central features of our conscious life, this book offers a way to think about all that might otherwise remain hidden in plain sight.
Eviatar Zerubavel is Board of Governors and Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and author of Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity, and Community, and The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life.