The other day, I was reading a blog about perception and memory. It started with perception, which is a topic of some interest to me, and shifted gently into memory and witness accounts. It spoke of how they can be erroneous.
It opened with a video of a horse galloping and how the artistic world, up to that point, perceived horses as "flying" across the ground with their legs extended. And then pointed out the misconception. Prior to the film, made in 1878 (I believe), the general consensus (among artists, one suspects) was that horses made a leap where their legs were stretched out fore and aft and that it was this point where all four hooves are clear of the ground. After the the perception was clearly shown to be erroneous, artists began painting the horses motion "correctly."
This photo shows the time all four hooves of the horse are off the ground.
I took this photo in the summer of 1976 with a Pentax 35mm SLR with a telephoto lens, ASA250 B&W Agfa film, and a speed of 1/400 at Del Mar racetrack. I was not trying to prove the point once again (so many had done that before me), it was quite by accident that I captured that point in the horse's gallop.
But the blog post conjured up the image and I had to look at my picture in comparison to the still images from the post.
There are actually four stills where the horse's hooves are off the ground. But watching a horse gallop, it would be difficult for the mind to sort out where that happens. So, I think we equated it to our own two-legged "gallops" where we do make that leap as our legs are stretched. But two legs are not four and the dynamic is different.
Our perception, therefore, was distorted by our preconception. Which goes back to my (all too) oft-repeated adage... we see what we wish (or want) to see.
I have a friend with whom I occasionally play golf. He is a big guy with lots of power who cannot bring himself to swing easy. Instead, he gives into the desire to hit the ball as hard as he can off the tee. The result is often unpredictable beyond the fact that it will go a long way. The direction is never known until after the ball leaves the tee.
He swears he can see the ball as it is compressed by the face of the club. I swing much slower (and, yes, my drives are much shorter) and I cannot even get a real glimpse of the impact. Does my friend really see the ball being hit? Or does he just believe he does? Did the magician really pull that rabbit from the hat?
How do we change our perception without someone else breaking through that preconception for us?
A Night Unremembered
7 years ago