Thursday, 19 March 2015

Moving object appears motionless

Crows in a treeI was in a shop the other day when I noticed something rather odd. I was approaching an escalator I wanted to use but was stopped in my tracks. I could see the handrail and it was clearly motionless. I was annoyed as this meant I'd have to walk up the clearly non-functioning escalator. As I got closer I could see that the escalator WAS actually working, even though the handrail still appeared to be not moving.

Nonplussed, I looked back at the handrail again. This time it WAS moving. I looked away and back again. It was stopped again, even though the escalator was working normally. I looked away and back again and the handrail was moving once more. While I was doing this, I was aware that several people were using the escalator, most holding onto the handrail. It was clear that the handrail must have been moving all the time. After that I only ever saw the handrail moving normally.

It was clearly a misperception. The black handrail, clearly well maintained, had so few marks on it that it appeared motionless sometimes, even from just a couple of metres away. I looked at another escalator nearby but it was obvious that the handrail was moving, even from a distance. That handrail had more markings on it, making it easier to see the motion.

It is interesting that I never saw the handrail start or stop moving. I either saw it moving or motionless and it only changed state when I looked away and looked back. This is typical of misperception.

On the second occasion that I saw the handrail motionless I knew what I was seeing could not not be right. This gave me an odd feeling - cognitive dissonance, I guess. It must be similar to what people feel when they realise they are seeing something paranormal. It occurs to me that there must be other occasions where a witness sees something that is moving without realizing it. This could obviously cause some paranormal-like effects to be reported. I'm going to examine all escalator handrails from now on, to see if I can catch the effect again.

PS: More on ASSAP's recent Seriously Possessed conference here.

No comments:

Post a Comment