For most people, to understand something new requires a cognitive antecedent. When members of the Me’en tribe in Ethiopia were shown a coloring book that included an illustration of a local antelope, they didn’t recognize the animal. They would smell the paper, twist it in their hands, feel its texture, listen to its sound, and even taste it gingerly, but they couldn’t discern any animal from its picture alone. When anthropologists transferred the drawing to cloth, a material with which the tribe was familiar, a few of the tribespeople could make out something…Scientific experiments repeatedly show that groups of educated, urbanized people pay no attention to unfamiliar objects directly in front of them if they focus too strongly on the familiar ones. What we already know frames what we see, and what we see frames what we understand.
—Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken, 2007