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Facing Reality

Topics: Lifestyle & Culture | 1 CommentBy admin | July 8, 2009

Given our tendency to see faces where there are none, how can we be sure we’re really people? And by the way, I can hear your aura, but I have no idea who you are…

I recall vividly from my childhood a recurring thought that my dad somehow looked a lot like his ’66 Imperial, much like people resemble their pets. I think it was something about his toothy grin and his wire-rimmed glasses, but it also had to do with a weird perceptual phenomena that plagues me which I rarely discuss with people, lest they catch on to the fact that really am insane, rather than thinking I’m someone who just talks like they’re insane. I experience things with an odd and subtle combination of Synesthesia and Prosopagnosia. Among other things, I hear some things that I see, and I have difficulty recognizing faces of people I know. I’m otherwise probably more perceptive than most people, because I’m forced to assemble different input into useful information. Which is why, back in the ’90s, I was drawn to the book Turn Signals Are The Facial Expressions Of Automobiles, which addressed a lot of issues surrounding our relationship with technology and interface design in a very engaging and readable style. I was reminded of all of this yesterday when I ran across research being done by Viennese scientists which they presented in a paper called Face to Face – The Perception of Automotive Designs (full text here). This tendency to see human faces everywhere – whether it’s some form of Pareidolia that makes us see faces on Mars, or in the mountains of Alberta, Canada – has me a bit concerned. How can we be sure when we look at each other that we’re not just imagining human faces where there are none? I mean we’re so hell bent on seeing faces in automobiles in particular that Japanese car designers have secured patents for this purpose, and we collectively spend millions of dollars on movies about it. C’mon. Come clean with me. You’re a ‘51 Hudson Hornet. Aren’t you. But seriously, whether referring to concepts like Apophenia, Synchronicity, or even the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, this is a fascinating topic that colors our lives constantly, yet is almost impossible to study scientifically. In the words of Klaus Conrad, who coined the term Apophenia: “It is fraught with problems of subjective bias in the observer.” Have you seen anything where it wasn’t lately?

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  1. Posted by jeannie beanie on 07.08.09 7:34 am

    oh.. this one is good Ian… very good. and I like knowing this little detail about you. makes perfect sense to me…
    As for seeing human faces in everything I look at.. like in floating clouds and amassed piles of snowflakes. Or, the dust that accumulates on the inside of my car window. I still see snow, and clouds, n’ fricking imageless dust.
    I will … at least for a while, expand my vision to see more possibilities in the mundane aspects of my life, or more importantly give myself to the moment, and let lens of my life be more creative.
    Thanks.. I see you in my cereal and yogurt