Friday, 22 March 2013

Looking for ghosts? Get distracted!

ShadowI tried to visualize the 'door ghost' but it would not appear. Then, once I'd given up, it appeared anyway! Why? Because I'd been distracted by something else. My initial failure may be because I have difficulty remembering the precise form of the door ghost (I don't find shadows easy to visualize). But it may also be that distraction is simply a far better way to see a strong misperception than remembering the last time you saw it.

For those who don't know what this is all about, the 'door ghost' is described here and the observation that visualization can bring back misperception here. I have known about the power of distraction for a long time, as documented frequently in this blog.

It made me wonder if I could capture the distraction effect with a test online. In the last blog entry I linked to a test that works for me, though probably not for most people, who don't notice themselves misperceiving. So I added a new test to the same page (here), right at the bottom. The idea is simple. Instead of an orange blob, I used a tiny ambiguous photo between the digits. The idea is that it might provide a momentary distraction (is that a crocodile?), allowing time for misperception to take hold (are they mushrooms?). I'm sure I could produce a much better experiment but I was in a hurry (or eyes?).

It does work marginally better for me than the orange blob (or are they flowers?). I'd be interested to hear if anyone else gets any different results with the new lower test. Whatever the results, being distracted, or day dreaming, certainly seems to be a better state of mind to encourage misperception rather than concentration. I only wish I'd known that before I spent hours on vigils staring intently looking for a ghost that never appeared.

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