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Aditya's picture

Skull vs. Woman / 3d from 2d

To me, it was interesting to see that some students when presented with the same picture effortlessly saw one image, while the other students effortlessly saw the other image. I asked myself, why is it this way? When I looked at the picture of the skull/woman looking in the mirror, right away I saw the skull, and when the picture was re-presented, my vision adamantly still saw the skull. I had to use a lot of my cognitive and mental resources to see the image of the woman in the mirror while other people saw the woman effortlessly and instantly. Once I was able to see her (after some time), I was thinking to myself, how I could I miss the image of a woman's face that made up the skull's eye? To these questions I will pose a series of thoughts/hypotheses.

 When we saw these images, we had to categorize whatever we saw as skulls or mirrors and reflections and women. We have this knowledge in our memory of what a skull is, what a mirror is, what a mirror does, to make sense of the picture. But what if as a society we were never exposed to the image of a skull, or what it does, where it is located etc. Because we knew what it was we were able to recognize a skull, but if we did not know what a skull was, we would have just seen a pattern of colors and shading. We can deduct from this that what society and culture we grow up in, will act as a lens, for what we can interpret, what we can make sense of, when images are posted on our retina. The process of viewing these images or any images in general is very complex and also includes cognitive processes that requires us to process what we see, categorize it, think about it, make sense of it, all in mere seconds. This is another humble and amazing ability of the brain that I wasn't really conscious of until recently. Also, not only did I see the skull, but in order to do so, I succesfully ignored images of the woman's face, without my "I" function realizing it. It is as if the other side of the nervous system independent of the "I" function decided to zone in on the skull and ignore the woman's face. Why? I don't think there is any single answer to this question but a series of factors that vary from picture to picture such as which was is white which one is black, which image is more simple, with less edges, which one is more complex. However something important that I realized was that while looking at this image, I ignored certain aspects of it in order to see the other without realizing it. This could be happening in the day to day bustle of our everyday lives and we would not even realize it.

This of course spawns new questions. Is this ability effortlessly  see the skull, or see the woman, or some who see both and not ignore anything genetic ir hereditary? Is it learned or acquired through different experiences of the culture or environment? Did I just see a skull because in my life I saw more skulls than woman looking in mirrors?

  Also some rules were listed about how we can make 3d stories from the 2d images on our retina. Recap: horizon assumption, parallel lines vs. unparallel lines, interposition, relative size. My question about this is that are these rules learned from experience or innate? From our lives, we know when one thing is in front of something else interposition occurs. We know when objects move away they get smaller. The point is we know these rules from experience in reality. But what if you showed a baby that was just born, who hasnt opened his eyes yet, a painting? Would he or she be able to tell from interposition, relative size, horizion assumptions or parallel lines, a 3d story from this 2d image he or she is looking at? Since we can't communicate in detail with babies this is not possible. Is there a way to tell whether these rules are innate or if they are learned from experience?

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