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15th of December 2014


Ok, here are two hand-drawn figures, A and B. They both have a horizontal line surrounded by a rectangle. It is easy to see than in figure B the rectangle is wider than the rectangle in figure A. But what about the horizontal line?

First look at figure A, then look at figure B, and evaluate if the horizontal line in fig. A is shorter, equal, or longer than the horizontal line in fig B.

My eyes said: line B is longer.
My brain said: it may be a trap, line A could be longer and all be an illusion.
But photoshop came into the game and said: shut up eyes and brain, they are the same xD

Hehe, clever thing using photoshop. There are plenty of pictures to trick your eyes/brain...

Yup, it is kind of an optical illusion, and "they are of same length" is the correct answer.

But it would be interesting to hear what are people's first impressions when they take a look at the picture - even when they know that the lines actually are equal, but how do the lines appear if you don't think about it too much?

This kind of a figure has been used in an empirical test, revealing some pretty interesting results. But before telling more about it, I'll wait for a couple of days to see if we get more reports from different people =)

For my eyes line B seems to be shorter than line A...

This study was mentioned in Jonathan Haidt's book "The Righteous Mind" - but unfortunately I don't quite remember the exact details, and I didn't write notes when reading =)

But, anyhow, the basic idea was that in empirical studies they found some interesting correlations: Typically people in individualistic cultures ("The West") find it easier to see that the horizontal lines are of same length - whereas members of more collective cultures perceive the horizontal lines differently. And this was supposed to be because individualistic mindset sees the world composed of separate individuals; the rectangle and the horizontal line are seen as independent entities, and their properties are unrelated. But a more collective way of seeing thigs is to perceive every individual belonging to a group, and defined by relationships. Thus, the horizontal line is seen as a part of the bigger figure, and if the proportions of the main figure change, then the horizontal line seems different, too.

The whole point in this is to recognize that how deep our differences are. Sometimes it is surprisingly difficult to maintain a rational discussion between people with different world views - and that is party because people are not only interpreting the social world according to their different values, no, they might be perceiving even the physical world and geometrical figures differently, because their sub-conscious mind in pre-processing information in different ways.

That's why I think that in order to better learn understand each other we need to develop our sub-conscious information processing; learning different models which help us to understand how others see the world. It might still be that ourselves we use just one model, seeing the world in a structured way, yet having some understanding of there being alternative ways of seeing the world...

Hmm - maybe I'll write a blog post about these kind of things, some point in January =)


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