Features vs. Averages (illusions)
Being the psychology poopsack that I am, I often wonder stupid things like: “do people focus more on the individual features of something, or the overall average?” (In other words, are we usually paying more attention to the figure skater’s tiny mistep, or overall absolutely magnificent performance?)
And then I happened across this somewhat mild optical illusion (maybe even nonexistent to some), while using 3d Studio Max… and I had to run it through Photoshop.
Which side seems darker?
(yes, it’s a trick question, but just shut up and see which side “feels” darker. You aren’t cool if you get around the illusion.) :P
When you’ve made up your mind, blur your eyes, until you can’t see the grain on the left at all. Otherwise, here’s the same picture after actually being blurred:
(By the way, for those curious: there’s no magic to making an illusion, and you don’t “invent” them. If you’re paying attention, you just happen across them by accident, then go develop them more, to make something you can show. (not that it isn’t possible to sit down and actually think about a type of illusion that your mind could see) Here’s one I first saw while using Photoshop, then made into this ring animation… I also developed it into this weaker effect (bars getting closer))
Here’s the story:
So, I got the new 3dsmax 2012 (hey, released just in time for 2011). It comes with a new graphics engine for the viewports (where you build your 3d scenes). The graphics engine does this cool shadow effect, called Ambient Occlusion:
Every time you change something in the scene, or move the camera, you see the ambient occlusion shadows disappear, then fade back in, starting as harsh grain. So, I kept seeing the grain fade to what looked like a lighter color. But I thought: “You know, I don’t think it SHOULD be going to a lighter color.” I thought the grain would just even itself out, and remain the same overall shade. So, I was kind kind of perplexed (and my brain got spinning about this “do we notice features or averages” stuff, as it pertains to everyday life)…
Well, Photoshop proved that it WAS actually changing to a lighter color, but I still wanted to see if the effect would hold if I just took an image of grain, and blurred it, to find its average. And so you get the image at the way top.
The mind has an interesting way of seeing things.
All this makes you wonder how these would play out:
–You take a tour of 2 churches, and have to decide which one is more holy. Are you more likely to pick Church 1, where they put on a convincing show about performing holy acts, and put on full workshops about how to be holy, or Church 2, where they don’t talk about what they do, yet everyone actually seems more holy?
–You’re watching a TV show that is overall fairly immoral and “bad”, but it occasionally makes a really big deal about some good messages. When your 8 year-old niece asks if she should watch the show, are you likely to remember the show as being more on the positive side, and tell her yes, or more on the negative side, and tell her no?
–You have to decide if your fairly ill-willed friends are good enough influences to spend time with. Are their overall dark natures the part that your mind pays attention to, or the fact that they’re a lot of fun?
Now, since situations usually consist of more than just one factor, there can be other things influencing your decisions… but, for the questions above, there’s still the common thread of your mind having to assign importance to features vs. averages. It could even be 50/50 for some, which, at first glance, might seem like a good enough balance to not need to pay attention to how one thinks… but every detail is important, because when it comes to making a flat yes/no decision, there is an exact tipping point, which gets you to go one way or the other.
Moral: pay attention to how you think… (and certainly fight mere feeling as a basis for making decisions).
Here’s another interesting thing I noticed, while using Photoshop:
Assuming you aren’t colorblind, this highlighted thing above looks green, right? (and, if you were in this actual hotel room, you’d see that it IS) But this IMAGE here, on the computer, is displaying that entire thing in shades of yellow.
If you examine in Photoshop, you’ll see that not one pixel in the region even begins to cross into green (in fact, most drift into very light orange).
This works because what’s AROUND something can effect how you see it. If I turn everything but the curtain thing green, notice what color we see now:
I’m certain that this reaches very powerfully into the real-world as well, affecting how we perceive everything; not just visuals.
Let’s go over a short, real-world example of that:
People often say that X trashy TV show is okay enough to watch, because there is much worse stuff out there. So, ignoring what the show IS, we’re now doing an equation of comparison… we’re holding up two colors, and seeing if the stronger one changes our perception of the weaker one. (This is a self-delusion that people use *extensively*, to let in all manner of desired things that are normally hard to justify.)
One concept that really confuses me, though, is why it’s okay to see your sister in a tiny swimsuit at the beach, but the slightest hint of less revealing underwear will send you both scrambling up trees. (I realize not all families have this problem, but a good number…)