Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow ghosts

Snow sceneThe world is icy monochrome round here at the moment. It looks to me like there should be a ghost round every corner! It's because we've had a significant fall of snow in the UK. So to test my idea that misperception should be more common in such conditions, I've been out getting cold.

Why should snow cover encourage misperception? Well, misperception is all about failing to recognise objects accurately. So anything that makes recognition less easy will enhance misperception. Snow does this mainly by covering object boundaries making them less recognizable. It can even 'join' separate objects together (by covering their visual boundary) to create an exotic 'new' object.

So I was out surveying the snowy scene looking for things to misperceive. One impressive object was an ivy covered post with a thick white cap of snow. Looked at briefly, it recalled a rather disturbing human figure! There were lots of other unfamiliar shapes which suggested various unknown small animals! However, few of these shapes resembled figures (and hence ghosts)! The problem is, you still need something that resembles a human figure to start with, even before it is covered in snow.

This might explain why there are not huge numbers of reports of ghosts in snow scenes. While misperception will certainly rife in such circumstances, it will not necessarily be of human figures. There is also another reason why there are not huge number of weird reports from snow scenes - the cold! I noticed that many people were hurrying to get out of the cold as quickly as possible. They certainly weren't standing around musing on odd shapes in the snow! Who knows what weirdness might be going on unobserved in all that white and dark!

PS: Yes, I got a bit cold on my trip out! I find it hard to believe I used to do winter mountaineering! Here's a route I did once - Sron na Lairig. The past is a foreign country ...

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