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Children and consciousness

There's something intrinsically trippy about being a child; before graduating into the venal world and its cabinet of chemically-induced everythings, kids have to scrape by on their imaginations. And it's funny to think back on all the consciousness-altering games/activities I supported and engaged in as a kid, and how many of them featured consciousness-altering elements. These games all revolved around a breathtakingly simple and honest premise: "What if?" or also "Something looks like something else?!" Some such games:

  • "Walking on the Ceiling"; played while walking and staring into a hand-held mirror aimed at the ceiling
  • "The Chin Game"; there are probably a million names for it; basically, you locate a comfortable staircase, lie supine down them, instruct someone to paint a pair of eyes and a nose on your chin, and then you begin to talk as everyone struggles against incontinence
  • "Arms & Legs"; again: surely there are so many names for this one; the effect of the Twister shenanigans in the "set-up" promise to combine the torso of one person with the (usually flailing) legs of another. A towel or blanket draped across the tell-tale  incongruity. Again: diapers advised.

And that was twenty years ago; surely there are other consciousness-bending games out there currently that improve upon and flat-out surpass the ones I know. Anyone know of any others?

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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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iStock

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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