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    Thread: Pareidolia may be produced by images of low fractal complexity

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      Pareidolia may be produced by images of low fractal complexity

      Interesting article on how certain kinds of ambiguous imagery make us see things that aren't there: We may finally know how Rorschach tests trick us into seeing things that aren’t there

      Taylor suspected the blocks might be fractals because of the way in which Rorschach initially produced them—by smearing ink on the top of a sheet of paper, folding the paper in half and pushing down hard on it so that the ink would penetrate the fibers.

      “Scientists who study fluids they know that produces fractal patterns,” said Taylor.

      Once he confirmed that they were fractals, he ran a test that enabled him to quantify how complicated the fractal patterns were—1 is a not-very-complex fractal and 2 is highly complex. He did this because his team had a wealth of historic data from when Rorschach tests were used to as a psychological exam—they could compare the fractal complexity of a Rorschach blot with the number of images people tended to see in them. What they found was that the more fractal complexity an image had, the fewer images people claimed to spot.

      Why does this matter?

      Because fractals are all over nature: trees, coastlines, clouds—are all fractal.

      So, when a Rorschach blot has a simple fractal pattern, it could in theory look like a lot of different things that we see in the natural world. As the image gets increasingly complex, the number of things it might resemble goes down. But what’s puzzling is the fact that our brain does this at all...
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      What I really wonder about, talking about fractals, is how the geometry and layout of the nerves in the eyes and the neurons they correlate with in the brain. Fractals and geometric shapes caused by hallucinogens and other phenomenon has all been explained as a result of this, and also the activity of neurons (what I mean is, sometimes signal cascades diffuse and sometimes they're direct, and depending on whether you've taken drugs or are experiencing an altered-state of consciousness, signal bleeding can be pointed to for a lot of these things showing up, among many other things).

      To me, the question then becomes, how is the pareidolia really caused by the fractal nature of the thing you're looking it itself, or because of the geometry and mapping of the neurons necessarily causes some strange effects concerning fractals in the first place. Perhaps the system is causing enough ambiguity that what you're seeing and how you interpret it becomes more open to suggestive thoughts because some minor erratic behavior, leading to the same kind of runaway feedback loop excitation (albeit to a far smaller degree) that characterizes the psychedelic experience, which provides a more solid link to why pareidolia runs rampant on such substances and our experiences with it while sober and waking. Yeah, that was a baseless conjecture, but I find it interesting to think about. Thanks for posting.

      edit: Feel free to skip over this bit of rambling here, but I figured I'd add it in anyway. Now that I think about it, I wonder how the fact the Rorscach test happens to be utterly devoid of depth and discernable color or light information (obviously causing a lot of ambiguity and misleading perceptions) changes the results. Fractals like the ones you see generated by computers or even in nature usually involve structures that obfuscate the actual shape and depth/color/light information you can meaningfully discern, which would one would believe would cause a similar effect, but how much is the fact they're simply black blots changes things, even if they're fractal black blots. A curious phenomenon you find when researching the differences between drugs that overstimulate the senses (serotonergic psychedelics) and ones that halt the communication of signals (dissociatives) is that, to some degree they are causing the same general effect in the brain, but by two entirely different routes. Psychedelics eventually cause neurons to effectively shutdown because of over-stimulation, owing to it it's ego-death effects. Dissociatives skip the middle man and prevent the signals from being sent through signal blockade rather than overstimulating the nerve, and at this point internal signal generation doesn't get overwritten by external signals like usual, leading to hallucinations that are different in nature than experienced on smaller doses of psychedelics, where the nerves stay stimulated but don't get so overblown that they shut down to protect themselves as a natural biofeedback mechanism.

      Now, to bring the tangent back in line, take the black blots and highly colorful and information-packed cg fractals are. Is this working by a similar principal? The cg fractal would be causing information overload from sending highly salient, yet ambiguous and confusing signals. This causes noticeable disturbances in one's ability to determine exactly what it is you're looking at, eventually causing a mild dissociative effect, and with that a mild loosening of ego borders and increased free-flowing creative associations (dissociation happens all the time, just at various degrees--take the Ganzfeld effect for instance). This creative association would be caused by increased internal signal generation affecting the consciousness as a result of external signals being interrupted from mild overstimulation of the neurons that would be passing them along (not a lot of neurons have to shutdown for there to be subtle, but noticeable effects). The blots would be achieving a similar effect, but as a result of there being a general lack of information being received, thus leading to increased internal signal generation affecting one's consciousness. It sounds like the distinction would be meaningless, but it can still have quite the impact on the exact effects it causes and the severity of them.
      Last edited by snoop; 02-16-2017 at 08:44 PM.
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