Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Another day, another ghost!

Tree misperceivedWhen I first saw the scene pictured here (right) I saw, just for a couple of seconds, a human figure on the bank looking (my) left. Looking at the photo (taken at the time), I'm surprised that I didn't think the figure was looking right!

I'll admit, it didn't occur to me at the time that it might be a ghost. I just thought it was someone standing by the water. The fact that the 'figure' quickly turned into a tree, which is what it really is, didn't surprise me either. What I DID find surprising was that I ever misperceived this pollarded tree in the first place. I guess the pollarded bit at the top, the light coloured area where branches have been removed, vaguely suggests a face.

I started to notice misperceptions only after I started to realise how they work. I'm sure I misperceived just as much before but simply never noticed. So what exactly did I used to see in the days before I noticed myself misperceiving? The possibilities would be: a) a tree, b) a human figure or c) simply failed to register the scene at all. It's impossible to know the answer to this question without doing some research. My guess would be that it could have be any of the options, varying from occasion to occasion.

Our brains like to make sense of what they perceive, so it would probably depend on expectation. There certainly COULD have been a person standing in that position (on a path nearby) so I could easily have seen a 'figure' and thought nothing of it. If a figure was unexpected in that position, I would probably have seen a tree instead. If I was thinking about something else entirely, I probably wouldn't have even registered seeing the scene. And if I'd been expecting a ghost, I would probably have seen a ' ghostly figure' which would have promptly 'vanished', so confirming its identity!

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