Images can be real or they can be an illusion. This is a widely understood idea that had sparked curiosity for ages.
This topic is not about hallucinations, it is about seeing one image and filtering out the other. For instance, if two faces were superimposed over one another, you would generally only see one image – the preferred image from memory. In other words, the face that is most familiar to you.
Celebrity images have been prime examples of how this idea works. When two faces of well-known celebrities were placed, one over the other, most people only saw one face. This face usually had sharper features and was the last face viewed by the test subject.
The other face in some cases, was unknown. Sometimes the picture came across as only one face with a few changes. If you were the test subject, you may have thought the celebrity had undergone cosmetic surgery to augment their looks.
To you, there may have seemed like something was amiss with the celebrities face, but it was definitely that familiar person. It can, in fact, be that conclusive.
A team of scientists, from around the world, including Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga at Leichester, Alexander Kraskov at the University College-London and Christof Koch of the Allen Institute of Brain Science concluded that neurons have a reaction to ambiguous faces.
Researchers arrived at this conclusion by asking test subjects to identify superimposed images, together that formed ambiguous faces. These test subjects responded to one face and not the other when given two choices.
It seems that neurons in the brain respond to recognition instead of visual stimulus. The brain immediately recognizes one face and eliminates the other, when both people are actually included in the image.
Why does this happen?
The brain works this way because there are always massive amounts of stimulus in the visual world. The brain, it seems, has been auto programmed to respond quickly and gather an answer for immediate processing. The brain is simple wired to see what it expects to see from the environment.
Images can be misleading, hence the illusion versus the real picture. It is amazing how the brain works – what it includes and what it eliminates.
This process can be seen in other instances such as landscape memories and recollections. In fact, when we look at our surroundings, we do not always see what is really there. Sometimes we see what we want to.
Image credit: University of Leicester
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