Has it ever happened to you that you are walking in a dark alley, and you see some mass that seems to be a bent person, but if you look closely, do you understand that this is a bag of trash or something just as safe? And with me too.
Have you ever seen such a thing that you saw a man bent in a dark alley, but at first you thought it was a bag of rubbish? And with me it did not happen. Why do such errors work only in one direction?
People are extremely social animals. We live in a hierarchical social environment in which our comfort, reproduction and survival depend on our relationships with people. As a result, we very well represent concepts through the prism of society. Some scientists even claim that the evolutionary arms race for strategic social thinking, both for rivalry
played an important role in the emergence of intelligence.
But this propensity for social judgments leads to periodic disruptions in people's reasoning about what they are not. It happens in two ways. First, we tend to see the human factor where it does not exist - this is a common form of paradolia
. It seems to many people that the sun is happy, for example, and in different world religions, diseases are considered curses sent by witches. It is argued that religions exist solely because of this effect: people imagine that supernatural beings must stand behind all that happens and make the world work the way it functions [Bering, J. (2011). The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life. WW Norton & Company]. Secondly, we are more inclined to believe in explanations formulated in terms of everyday psychology used by people to explain and predict the behavior of other people. Teachers sometimes take advantage of this, giving natural features anthropomorphism
to help students learn (for example, “water seeks to fill the entire vessel”).
Why did evolution need such systematic errors? Like most perceptual distortions, it uses the patterns that exist in our environment to help us (or rather, the Paleolithic people) to multiply and survive. In the environment in which people first appeared, it is much safer to take a log for a lion than a lion for a log - as a result, those who tend to err in a certain direction survive better seeing the animate in objects. And for hunter-gatherers who risked meeting wild beasts and hostile people much more than we are today, living things were more dangerous than non-living things. We tend to see animate everywhere, and children are even stronger than adults, which speaks of the innateness of this feature
This has its own, complex and interesting consequences. In the 1990s, researchers of human and computer interaction, Reeves and Nass, reproduced experiments on social psychology, but subjects, instead of interacting with other people, interacted with computers
. For example, the researchers put a blue rubber band on the test person’s arm and blue paper on a computer monitor. The subjects were told that this computer was their team, and another computer marked with red paper was on another. The subjects believed that the error checking on the computer from their team reveals more errors. All because we believe that computers (either fictional characters or gods) use the same thought processes as we do when we think about other people. This experiment was one of many amazing (and sometimes even funny) examples of this.
Another interesting effect of this phenomenon is that we treat virtual people as real. Experiments show that to some extent people consider the characters of their favorite TV shows as their friends - even wizards or vampires.
Similarly, when we interact with “friends” on social networks or through text communication, it may seem that we get high-quality social contacts - but this is not so. It turns out that personal interaction with other people - real people who are right in front of us, and not characters in the TV box or with friends with whom we correspond - is vital for a long and happy life. It even affects health more than exercise or diet! [Pinker, S. (2014). The Village Effect: How To Make Happier And Healthier. Random House Canada]
We need to remind ourselves of our evolutionary history in which we developed without the presence of realistic images of people. Then if you saw something resembling a person, it was definitely a person. When you look at a videotape of a person, most of your brain perceives it as alive - the spindle
- shaped facial area of the
brain reacts the same way, whether you look at the real face, or at the face image. Moreover, most of the experiments investigating this part of the brain do not use real people - only a photo or video.
The mistakes that we make, seeing things not related to people as people, satisfy our need to interact with other people, but do not give us many of the benefits of this interaction. Watching TV for a while is enough to satisfy your desire to be with other people. But this is the visual equivalent of useless calories - tasty, but not nutritious.
Better meet up with a friend. Your brain will thank you.Jim Davis teaches cognitive science at Carleton University. The author of the book "Riveted: The Jokes Make Us Laughs, Movies Make Us Cry, and the Religion Makes Us Feel One