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If you believe it: kids who live to tell

All the hype about the newly released Amir Bar-Lev documentary--"My Kid Could Paint That"--makes me think of when I was casting "Wiccan types" last year & more than a few mothers kept bragging to me about the past lives of their offspring. Of course, this isn't to cast any shade on Wiccans, or challenge the could-be-a-past-life-reference accounts of families--secular and otherwise--for whom I've babysat. I'm always interested in how families make sense of life & death vis-a-vis the idiosyncrasies of their children--in college I researched Carol Bowman vanguard of the child past lives phenomenon, and I've seen the 6 year-old purportedly reincarnated WWII pilot on Montel and ABC Primetime. Coaching speculation aside, it's pretty chilling to listen to a kid expound on getting shot down by Imperial Japanese aircraft.

A 2005 Harris Interactive poll showed that one in five Americans believe in reincarnation. And according to reincarnation theorist Walter Semkiw, Oprah may likely have been abolitionist James Wilson! (via daily mantra) My question to you is: if you're thumbs-up on reincarnation, which historical era do you suspect you've trafficked? If the transmigration of souls is offensive, moot, or otherwise, is there a period in history you wish you could have witnessed?

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Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
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Can You Figure Out This Newly Discovered Optical Illusion?
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)

Ready to have your mind boggled? Take a look at the image above. What shape are the lines? Do they look like curves, or zigzags?

The image, spotted by Digg, is a new type of optical illusion published in the aptly named journal i-Perception. Discovered by Japanese psychologist Kohske Takahashi, it’s called the “curvature blindness illusion,” because—spoiler—the contrast of the lines against the gray background makes our eye see some of the lines as zigzags when, in fact, they’re all smooth curves.

The illusion relies on a few different factors, according to the three experiments Takahashi conducted. For it to work, the lines have to change contrast just at or after the peak of the curve, reversing the contrast against the background. You’ll notice that the zigzags only appear against the gray section of the background, and even against that gray background, not every line looks angled. The lines that look curvy change contrast midway between the peaks and the valleys of the line, whereas the lines that look like they contain sharp angles change contrast right at the peak and valley. The curve has to be relatively gentle, too.

Go ahead, stare at it for a while.

[h/t Digg]

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Vivid Imagery Makes Poetry More Pleasurable, According to Psychologists
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Contrary to what English teachers led us to believe, most readers don’t judge poetry based on factors like alliteration and rhyme. In fact, a new study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts suggests that vivid imagery (i.e. sense-evoking description) is what makes a poem compelling, according to Smithsonian.

To determine why some poetic works are aesthetically pleasing while others are less so, researchers from New York University and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, had more than 400 online volunteers read and rate 111 haikus and 16 sonnets. Participants answered questions about each one, including how vivid its imagery was, whether it was relaxing or stimulating, how aesthetically pleasing they found it, and whether its content was positive or negative.

Not surprisingly, taste varied among subjects. But researchers did find, overall, that poems containing colorful imagery were typically perceived as more pleasurable. (For example, one favorite work among subjects described flowers as blooming and spreading like fire.) Emotional valence—a poem's emotional impact—also played a smaller role, with readers ranking positive poems as more appealing than negative ones. Poems that received low rankings were typically negative, and lacked vivid imagery.

Researchers think that vivid poems might also be more interesting ones, which could explain their popularity in this particular study. In the future, they hope to use similar methodology to investigate factors that might influence our enjoyment of music, literature, and movies.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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