Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The ghost that walked away

ShadowI was at the door where I see the door ghost (see here for background). However, I'd forgotten all about the ghost, my mind being on other matters. As usual, this meant that the ghost duly appeared. Being in a hurry and not in the mood, I moved my hand (which causes the misperceived ghostly figure) upwards out of view to deliberately break the slightly unsettling perception of someone just behind me. But to my astonishment, I saw the dark ghost walk away along the path behind me.

Though I've had a similar experience before (here), this one was unexpected for two reasons. Firstly, it was bright and sunny. I had thought the ghost would not appear in such conditions. However, on the contrary, it appeared clearer and more distinct than ever. Secondly, I knew it was a misperception when I, quite deliberately, moved my hand. Despite that, the misperception persisted! In fact, it was so vivid that I was convinced, for all of a second or two, that there was a very solid real person right behind me. There wasn't, of course.

So, I was in the weird position of (a) knowing I was misperceiving but (b) somehow also thinking that what I was seeing was real. I think (a) was a conscious thought while (b) was an unconscious feeling. I think it was the very act of moving my hand that made the misperception persist. The movement made the hand less easy to see, and so, easier to misperceive.

What does this all this mean? Well, firstly bright scenes are not only no bar to misperception but might even make it more vivid. I had a hint that this might be the case in writing yesterday's blog entry. Secondly, it appears that even knowing you are misperceiving does not always break the misperception. It seems misperception can be more persistent than I'd always assumed.

Thirdly, object movement may be another misperception trigger in itself. Most of the misperceptions I have personally noticed have been stationary. I had thought that moving apparition cases might only rarely caused by misperception. However, I am now revising that opinion. The very motion of an object can make it more difficult to see, provided the observer is not following it with their gaze. I didn't follow my hand in this particular case, making it appear blurred. Misperception may be an important cause of moving apparition cases after all.

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