How Perception can be Biased

10 07 2008

Perception Experiment

There has been new publication reported at Science Daily where researchers at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee have found that mental images can subsequently effect a person’s perception. The example provided in the news report was that when people see a mouse, they may continue to catch glimpses of imaginary mice for some time afterwards:

“…imagery, in the absence of any incoming visual signals, leads to the formation of a short-term sensory trace that can bias future perception, suggesting a means by which high-level processes that support imagination and memory retrieval may shape low-level sensory representations.” – Abstract

Such research into perception can be applied to some of the more bizarre things observed by people. If a person has an event that they interpret as paranormal or unusual such as a moving shadow or a UFO, the imagery of this event may subsequently cause them to reinterpret or alter any subsequent perception they may have in a similar environment. This could provide some explanations why some people may experience a number of similar paranormal or unusual incidents.

The study did find considerable variability in how it affects different people over time, so there will be underlying psychological characteristics that influence how people perceive images and interpret them. Some people will be more predisposed to the imagery influencing their perception than others and it would be interesting to for a study to look at people who regularly experience minor incidents of the paranormal to see if they are more predisposed to such a psychological phenomenon.




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