Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Time slip?

ClockMy acquaintance (MA) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR) was on a train ride recently and woke to see a familiar station but noticed something strange. MA was seated looking forward and could see ahead the street at one end of the platform. But the buildings there looked oddly unfamiliar.

MA, who knows all the stations on this particular line well, felt distinctly odd at this point. The rest of the station looked normal. It was just the street at the end that looked different. Could it be a failure of memory? What about a time slip - maybe a scene of the station from some previous era? Then the more likely answer occurred to MA. It must be a MWR! Except that it wasn't.

MA was most definitely fully awake and the scene remained stubbornly real but different to what it should have been. Then MA looked at the station sign. It was the next station along to the one MA thought. Clearly MA had slept right through the previous station. As I recently said, MA never usually misses train stops due to MWRs. This may have been why MA was so convinced it was actually the previous station. The two stations are broadly similar in layout but not difficult to tell apart visually. And yet only one bit, the street scene, looked different.

This appears to be a case of expectation affecting a surprisingly large chunk of what MA was perceiving. It would appear to be a dramatic case of inattentional blindness. One point to note is that MA was looking forward, so most of the station would have been in peripheral vision and so seen in less detail than the 'different' street scene ahead. Another important point is that MA was asleep just before arriving at the station, so none of the approach route was seen.

Inattentional blindness is not related to MWRs and can occur to anyone. However, it affected MA because of MWRs. MA is used to waking from any MWRs or naps at each station in turn on a rail journey. When this failed to happen, for once, MA expected to see one station when actually being at another. Nevertheless the effect was surprisingly powerful. It was only the sight of the station sign that corrected MA's error which lasted for tens of seconds. Until then MA was completely convinced it was another station that had somehow changed radically for some unknown reason. Had MA not been utterly convinced, the radical idea of a time slip would never have been considered! Inattentional blindness and the role of expectation are clearly points to be think about when examining reports of anomalous phenomena.

No comments:

Post a Comment