Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Seeing what you expect!

Crows in a treePassing through a bookshop the other day, a title caught my eye as it was about birding, a hobby of mine. Except that, on tuning to look at the book properly, it wasn't about birding at all. The relevant word in the title had six letters in common with 'birding', so my mistake was understandable. But I actually SAW it as 'birding', not something like it. It was, thus, a misperception. Regular readers will be aware that I started to notice my own misperceptions a few years back and have seen several ghosts as a result since. We all misperceive all the time, to some extent, but only notice it rarely.

So what, you may ask? Well, it made me think. I misperceive poorly-seen signs, newspaper headlines, book titles, posters and the like fairly frequently. But what is interesting is that the words I see are very frequently related to my own interests, particularly the paranormal. This is interesting because it suggests a definite bias in what I misperceive words to be, towards my particular interests. Misperceptions are definitely heavily influenced by the shape of the object, or word, being misperceived. I have also noted that they are often what you fear, or most want, to see. I hadn't realised, until now, that they may be influenced by other things too. Of course, words are not objects. It doesn't necessarily follow that I will misperceive objects as something paranormal simply because I do so for words. But it could well do. Maybe where I see ghosts, others see different things.

Even if the bias only applies to words, its effects might still be apparent in paranormal research. Take EVP, for instance. Formant noise, which is a xenonormal cause for some EVP recordings, is effectively a specialised form of misperception. It might mean that the meaning people place on apparent words caused by formant noise might be biassed. So someone who believes EVP are spirit messages may interpret the sounds that way while another person might not.

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