Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Want to see a ghost? Forget it ...

ShadowTwice recently I have repeated my latest observation of the door ghost (the door what?). This is the one where I see the ghost retreating rapidly away from me with improbably small feet (see here for first observation). I noticed that each of these sightings had something specific in common - there was bright sunshine illuminating the whole area strongly. This suggests that the effect may depend on high contrast illumination, which may be why I've not noticed it before. The time of year may be important here, as well, perhaps related to a specific angle of the sun to the door.

This underlines, once again, how acutely sensitive misperception is to illumination. If you want to see a misperceived ghost that a witness saw, you need to be in the same place with the right illumination. That last bit can be difficult to arrange.

Regular readers may wonder at the seemingly haphazard way in which I am slowly investigating the door ghost. It's because of another big problem, apart from correct illumination, that hampers misperception research. It is this. If you've seen a misperception once it usually disappears, never to be seen again. That's because, once your brain knows what the object that you misperceived really is, it only ever sees it that way in future. Except, if you forget, at least temporarily, your previous observations. Then you can misperceive the same object all over again because your brain no longer remembers what it really is.

I have, as regular readers will know, a shocking memory. This is a disadvantage in just about every life situation imaginable. But this is one of those rare occasions when it is actually useful. But even with my poor memory, It means I see the door ghost repeatedly, every time I forget about it.

But even with a poor memory, it is very difficult to do experiments. Suppose I plan a particular experiment for when I next see the door ghost. I can't make a note of it as this will stop me seeing the ghost. So I forget it and the ghost eventually reappears. But then I have to remember what my test was before the ghost disappears, which usually happens within a few seconds. And having a poor memory, recalling the experiment is a tricky task!

So despite having a 'tame' ghost, it is still largely a question of amassing spontaneous observations over time. I think it might be possible to do some kind of truly experimental setup with wearable technology but that is very much a blue sky idea at present.

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