Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A ghost returns!

ShadowI was startled recently by a dark figure lurking unexpectedly behind me. I shouldn't have been surprised really because it was the door ghost (background here) appearing in exactly the same place it always has. However, it has been a while since I've seen the ghost and I was not expecting it, or thinking about it, at all.

Last May I concluded that, after a long absence, the door ghost had gone forever (see here). But then it unexpectedly reappeared, just once, last September (see here). But that only seemed to be the exception that proved the rule. I decided the ghost had disappeared because I was approaching the door from a different direction from the way I used to. The solitary September reappearance was put down to the particular lighting on the day in question. So why has it reappeared this time?

The answer turned out to be simple. I was wearing a coat that I hardly ever wear. It has especially baggy sleeves, enlarging the apparent size of my arms. Since the ghostly figure is a misperception of my own hand and arm, this all makes sense. Indeed, it made me wonder. I used to wear that particular coat a lot more than I do nowadays. Could part of the reason why the ghost no longer appears much be related to that change in clothing?

Misperception is highly dependent on the exact circumstances of how an object is observed. There are a number of trigger factors (see here) involved that promote the misperception of an object as something else. But perhaps the most important factor in misperception is the apparent shape of the object being misperceived. I say 'apparent shape' because often it is not the true full shape of the object but a partially obscured view.

It will be interesting to see if the door ghost reappears again. If it does, I'm sure there will be some special factor, not always present, like the coat, that makes the difference.

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