Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The man with no face!

Crows in a treeIt was the weirdest thing! Walking along a street, I glanced at a couple sitting on a bench. The man, who was facing me, had no face! Where there should have been facial features there was only skin. If you've ever seen the Dr Who episode The Idiot's Lantern, it was just like that. Within a second or two, I was relieved to see that the man really did have a normal face after all, unsurprisingly. The lighting was very flat which obviously contributed to the disturbing effect.

it was obviously a glance misperception. But what struck me forcibly was that I should misperceive someone without a face at all. I have never seen someone look like that and I doubt anyone else has either. At least, I've never seen someone look like that in real life. But I have seen some in the episode of the TV programme Dr Who just mentioned. I'm sure that I'd have never seen a 'no face' person if I'd not seen that episode. My perception would have swapped in some other visual memory instead.

What I found interesting was that I had experienced a visual substitution from a specific known fictional source. I don't think I've seen that 'no face' effect in any other movie or TV programme and obviously not in real life. It is important because I've always assumed that misperception used fictional, as well as real, images from memory. Now I KNOW it does!

In many cases, misperceptions appear to draw on general archetypes, whether fictional or real, like a 'classic' flying saucer for instance. But I think that in certain circumstances a much more specific visual memory may be used, as in the current example. I would guess it is determined by the specific visual properties of the object being misperceived.

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