Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Figure vanishes then reappears shortly afterwards!

Crows in a treeI was wandering along a street recently when I saw someone sitting motionless in a parked car a little ahead of me. Now I am quite frequently fooled by the misperception of someone sitting in a parked car when it turns out to be something like a coat draped on the back of the seat. Sure enough, even as I looked the 'person' vanished to reveal an empty car! Such misperceptions are, of course, an important source of ghost sightings.

But then something completely unexpected happened. I kept looking at the car, as I approached it, because I could see there was 'something' there resembling a human figure and I was intrigued to see what it might be. But suddenly it WAS a person again! Closer inspection showed that it was indeed a real person.

I've have had a similar experience once before (see here). In that case the unlikelihood of the figure's position and posture made me think it must be a misperception. In the current incident it was more a case 'I'm not falling for that one again'. But it had the same effect. The figure 'vanished' temporarily while I mentally dismissed it as only a misperception, until I was so close that I could not mistake it for anything other than a real person.

Thus we now have two cases of 'imperception' (not seeing something visibly present) caused by my expectation about what I was seeing. The cases show, in a dramatic way, how perception can be directly affected by conscious expectation. It is easy to imagine a situation where this might alter how a spontaneous anomalous incident is reported. Suppose, for instance, two people were together and one could see a ghost but the other couldn't, quite a common occurrence. If the witness who could see the ghost told the other what they were seeing, the second witness might begin to 'see' it too.

Clearly something like the current incident could occur to witnesses other than me. If such a witness saw a person who then disappeared and reappeared they would no doubt think it might be a ghost! The only bit missing from this scenario is that the witness would need to doubt that what they were seeing was a real person for some reason. That's probably why I've never come across a report of a ghost that disappeared and the reappeared shortly afterwards in the same place. But clearly it could happen and if anyone knows of any such cases,please let me know.

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