Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The past comes to haunt

ClockI looked into the brightly lit window and saw a bar. It gave me an odd feeling. I looked at the exact position where, some years ago, my desk had sat in the office where I once worked. Since then the office has been turned into a bar. I suppose the feeling was cognitive dissonance. I stood there, on the exact bit of pavement where I'd been many times before, staring through the window of a building I knew so well. Except everything was different! It just felt wrong.

The feeling I had was similar to one I often get when I see a ghost, a sort of detached feeling ('zoned out' one might say). If I'd seen a ghost appear or disappear in front of me at that moment, I would not have been surprised at all.

I've similar experiences when revisiting old haunts before. In such situations, a familiar object might trigger a fond memory while another jars because a favourite building has disappeared.

It made me wonder about that feeling of 'detachment' that often accompanies a misperception. It is possible that the 'detached' feeling is a sign of the brain being preoccupied, perhaps making it more prone to misperceive. If I could reproduce that state, maybe it might make misperception more likely. I suspect that mixture of familiar and unfamiliar puts an 'unusually heavy load' on my perception and memory, in particular. These are, of course, precisely the brain functions where misperceptions originate.

I will try out the idea by deliberately visiting some other old haunts, in future, to see if I get that odd detached feeling again and, maybe even get a really good misperception. I think I know just where to go.

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