A Magician Explains Why We See What’s Not There
A magician sat at a table in front of a group of schoolchildren. He threw a ball up in the air a few times, but before his last throw, he secretly let the ball fall into his lap. Then he continued to throw an imaginary ball up in the air. Surprisingly, more than half the children claimed to have seen an illusory ball, or ghost ball.
The illusion relies on misdirecting the audience's expectations to anticipate you throwing the ball for real.
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At first, pareidolia (seeing shapes in clouds and in other inanimate objects) was seen negatively rather than a sign of creativity. It was even considered to be a symptom of psychosis or dementia.
In 1895, French psychologist Alfred Binet - known for his work on IQ tests - suggested that inkblots could be used in psychological research to study differences in involuntary imagination. This idea was further developed, resulting in inkblots to investigate people's personality and assess their psychological state.
The creative aspect of pareidolia became known in the 19th century with the practice of 'klecksography' - the art of making images from inkblots.
Writer Victor Hugo experimented with folded papers and stains by holding his quill upside down to use the feather-end as a brush. Another practitioner of klecksography, German poet Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner, published Kleksographien (1890), a collection of inkblot art with accompanying short poems about the objects that can be noticed in the images.
It is the idea that we see what we want to see.
It’s similar to another concept — motivated reasoning, where we come to conclusions we’re predisposed to believe in.
It is the feeling that our perception of the world reflects the truth.
Of all our senses, we tend to trust our eyes the most. And we believe that the way we see the world is the way that the world really is.
Over the years, research has shown that individuals tend not only to prefer contoured lines over straight ones but also to associate more joyful feelings with the first ones.
According to research in the field, people have the tendency to associate happiness with circles and anger with triangles.
This seems to find its meaning in individuals' attraction to the roundness of a child's face, as, involuntarily, we associate innocence and honesty to round-shaped items.
Taking into account that our own eyes function based on the existence of spheres, such as the iris or the pupil, there is no wonder that we all are, as individuals, prone to choose circular lines over straight ones.