Friday, 21 November 2014

Is the nighttime best for ghosts?

Parrot low lightIt's the unmistakable squawk of the Parakeet roosting flight that first alerts me to the oncoming twilight. With night arriving so early at this time of year I'm spending more time than usual wandering around in twilight and the dark. Given that low lighting is an important trigger of misperception, I'm seeing lots more ghosts right now. Except I'm not! If anything, I'd say I see more during daylight that at night or dusk. Why would that be?

We all misperceive, all the time. However, most people never notice it, unless it is deliberately brought to their attention. I have, for several years now, spontaneously noticed some of my own misperceptions, seeing various ghostly figures in the process (see the door ghost, for instance). So what's going on?

I think it's reasonable to assume that in low light conditions there is a lot of misperception going on. There are certainly plenty of shadows being cast that could easily be interpreted as shadow ghosts or even human figures. I think that, at night and in other poor viewing conditions (like fog), the unconscious threshold for noticing misperception is raised. If this threshold was not raised, we would all see so many weird things in the dark we might be too scared to go out after nightfall. I think the threshold is set individually by experience.

Of course, people DO see some ghosts at night, even me. But I think an object probably needs to look a lot more like a human figure at night, compared to daylight, for it to be misperceived as a ghost. Interestingly, this might imply that ghosts are more likely to be seen in daylight than at night.

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