Thursday, 7 August 2014

Normal object, normal sound, strange anomaly

ParakeetI heard a parakeet calling in the distance. It was getting steadily louder as the bird was clearly approaching. I looked out of the window in time to see a dark shape streak by, just outside. I then heard the parakeet continuing to call as it flew away into the distance. Though I only saw the bird for a second or less, when it was directly in front of the window, I knew it must be the parakeet.

Afterwards, I started to have doubts. The bird I saw did not look big enough. Also, it was dark whereas parakeets are bright green. Even in low light their intense colour is striking and obvious. The photo (right) shows a parakeet at sunset. Even bathed in a red glow, it still looks obviously green. The conditions for my 'dark shape' sighting were overcast but broad daylight. I concluded that the bird I saw was NOT the parakeet I'd heard after all. The parakeet probably flew nearby but invisible from the window.

In misperception, our brains use all the visual information available to decide what a poorly-seen object, like the dark shape here, might be. I don't see any reason why they should not use auditory cues as well, particularly when they appear to coincide with the visual object, as in this case. I didn't actually misperceive the dark shape as a green parakeet but I think, in other similar cases in the past, I have. Unfortunately, I don't have any detailed examples of this to hand but if it happens again I will share it here.

What does this have to do with the paranormal? Well, I'm sure that some anomaly reports could be produced in just this way. If a witness saw something while hearing an unconnected sound coming from roughly the same area, it could lead to a misperception. To spot such an example, you'd need to consider the sound and reported visual anomaly separately. The sound, for instance, might be something quite normal but from an object simply not visible to the witness at the time. If the object that WAS visible was poorly seen, this also might point to the possibility of an audio-visual misperception.

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