OF SOUND MIND: How Our Brains Can Trick Us
December 18, 2010 2 Comments
by Tony Harrington
A BIG part of being a paranormal investigator is being open to the possibility that not everything is going to have a logical explanation. It has been said that the best investigators are the ones who walk into a place believing that it is NOT haunted and set about proving their case.
The SPIRIT Seekers, as well as several other organizations in Arkansas, adhere closely to this style of investigation. We want to be shown without a shadow of a doubt that there is no other alternative explanation to a haunting. After all, our minds are capable of betraying us. Even we investigators have to stop what we are doing sometimes and take a step back and analyze something from a different angle or approach it in an unorthodox manner. As grounded as we are in our process, not everything is as it seems.
The Nyberg building at the Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Booneville, AR is a place we have investigated as a group countless times. We have seen our fair share of activity and the unexplained. For some, the annual trip to the sanatorium becomes just that, another excursion into familiar territory. It is then we should be at our most vigilant and attempt to debunk things we experience. If we hear singing and music or disembodied voices we need to determine every possible source before we simply say, “It’s paranormal, this place is filled with ghosts.”
While the place is known to be haunted, those experiences you just wrote off as paranormal could have a natural explanation, one that you deemed not important enough to look into simply because the groundwork has been laid many times over. We tend to forget though that our brain tries to make sense out of chaos. If it is dark and you can not see and you hear things shifting in the distance, your brain determines that you are not alone and sends a signal to your eyes to try and focus on what is causing the sound. In the absence of visual stimuli or decreased visual acuity our brain will fill in the gaps and the next thing you know, you are seeing shadow people.
We are not a perfect machine. We are capable of being duped by our own senses. Let’s look at a few ways our mind can play tricks on us.
1) Depth Preception
This picture IS NOT animated, in fact, it is not even moving at all. What you are experiencing is proof that your brain and eyes can indeed deceive you. If it is not moving then what exactly is happening to give it the appearance of movement? Your eyes are trying to focus on too many focal points at once and combined with the complimentary colors of each shape it causes the appearance movement.
To prove the theory that the image is actually steady, focus on one black dot anywhere on the picture and notice the movement slowly stops.
Then, move your eyes across the image and watch the movement resume.
This demonstration proves that our minds are capable of deceit and proves that we have to be certain that what we THINK we are experiencing is truly what we ARE experiencing.
Camera’s were designed to capture images in the same functionality that the human eye captures images.
With a camera, the image is captured by being burned onto film or captured and stored on digital storage devices. The way we see is that the optic nerve receives the image and burns it to the brain for processing. Yeah, that’s a very high-level explanation, but its all we need for this example on how our brains can trick us.
If we stare long enough at an object that is lit well enough, we should be able to see that image burned into our retinas after we close our eyes or shift our gaze to a blank white wall. In this picture, focus your eyes on the cross hair at the center of the photograph and stare at it for 30 seconds.
After 30 seconds shift your gaze to a white wall.
You will see an image come to life before your eyes.
3. Distance Perception
Further proof that the brain has a hard time making up its mind. At a close distance your brain deciphers what is larger and more pronounced. In this example we see that this box clearly states “You Are Close”, but is that really the message the words are trying to convey. Stand up from you computer and move as far from the screen as you can without losing sight of it. Now look back at the screen for a new message.
Both statemnts are printed on this picture, the use of color, highlights and size are all deliberate in order for the illusion to work. Even though this is man-made, situations like this can be naturally occurring.
4. Auditory Illusions
It is not just our eyes that deceive us, our ears are capable as well. We can hear things that don’t actually exist, or they do exist and are perceived to be something they are not. Let’s take this video for example. We will play the video one time. After you listen to the climbing scale, play it again immediately to continue hearing the scale go up through the octave range. It is one video with two different results, how is that possible? The simple answer is that it is two sets playing simultaneously. A low note followed by a higher note. Our brain registers low to high first then recognizes a pattern. Playing it again our brain searches for the pattern and recognizes the high notes. The sound is the same each time we press play it is just how our brain registers the sound that is different.
After these examples, I think it is safe to assume that we are not as flawless as we like to believe, that our perception is not always reality. When we investigate we have to be aware that not everything is as it seems. Conversely we also have to accept that just because it appears that nothing is going on doesn’t mean that it isn’t. Illusions can go both ways in that regard so it is important that we remain focused, stay sharp and don’t believe everything you see or hear at first. It is why you are called an “investigator” after all.