Not seeing what is right in front of you

Not seeing what is right in front of you

Swifts are emblematic of summer. They are only here in the UK for three short months. So I am always keen to see them as they scythe through the warm sky. But they have a curious trick that makes them even more fascinating – they sometimes vanish. As I watch their rapid flight through the sky they sometimes turn and just disappear! At least they do for me.

They don’t really disappear. As they turn sideways on their shape becomes so slender that I can’t see them anymore. What my eye actually sees is probably a thin dark undefined linear shape. However, my brain edits this out and replaces it with blue sky. It is an imperception – a special kind of misperception. Instead of replacing a poorly-seen object with another from my visual memory, like ordinary misperception, it substitutes in the surrounding background. This, of course, makes the object simply vanish.

I think imperception is a graphic demonstration of how vision (and other senses) work. We don’t see a perfect image of the reality before our eyes. Instead we see an edited movie produced by our brains based loosely on what our eyes see. It is vital to understand this when collecting eyewitness reports of anomalous phenomena. Not only do people see poorly-seen objects as something else but they may miss some altogether. And what if these poorly-seen objects were the mundane cause of some apparently paranormal activity?

Author :© Maurice Townsend 2020

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