Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ghost in inappropriate attire

Crows in a treeRecently, while staring out of a window, I noticed a man in a white shirt outside. What was odd was that it was night time and, being midwinter, it was distinctly chilly (only one or two degrees above zero, in fact). Of course, that doesn't stop anyone wearing just a white shirt but it does make it unusual. I only saw the man briefly as 'he' quickly turned into a pile of bags (some white) on more prolonged inspection. So, another ghost produced by glance misperception.

What was interesting about this otherwise typical glance misperception was the unlikelihood of the figure seen. People rarely go around in shirt sleeves in such cold conditions. It's interesting because it shows that misperception does not, when you can't see an object properly, simply select the most likely thing that could be there. It is more heavily influenced, it seems, by the visual form - the white bags in this case.

That means that misperception may be capable of producing visual substitutions that could be extraordinary, depending on the object being viewed. This could explain some of the really strange things that people sometimes misperceive. The visual memory used by the misperception might, in such cases, be taken from purely fictional sources, like horror or science fiction movies. I realise that's going a long way beyond someone wearing inappropriate attire on a cold night but the principle is the same.

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