Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Order in Disorder

It's amazing the way the human brain creates order out of disorder. Take Led Zeppelin's lyrics to Stairway to Heaven played backwards. Some people think it reveals a hidden satanic message. You can listen to it here. Play the backwards clip first without the subtitles and see if you can pick up the message. I couldn't. Click to read the subtitles and then listen to the song again. Suddenly the satanic message comes through. (Queen's Another One Bites the Dust is great too.)

This is a now classic textbook example of top-down processes, or rather the idea that our previous experience and expectations affect our perceptions - especially of ambiguous stimuli.

Almost any ambiguous stimulus can be primed.

Images in clouds.

An old woman -or- a young girl?

A duck vs. a rabbit.

The letter B instead of a 13 when it's embedded in ABC vs. 12 13 14.

The Virgin Mary on a piece of toast.
((Before eBay stopped the bidding, the toast was up to $22,000)).

All are classic examples of perceptions distorted by higher cognitive processes.

My favorite one:
The face of satan in the smoke of one of the World Trade Center towers.

This was news to me, but evidently old hat to people who took it as a sign of the end of days. A taste of the strangeness can be had here. Scroll down to the "The Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle Re: The WTC Collapse" near the end for a great example of the human brain in action on Revelations 17:15-17.

Can you hear the hooves of the four horsemen yet?

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