Patrick Doyle

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Ghost in the Eye of the Beholder

What if ghosts are getting lost in the translation between your eyes and brain?

Before we can explore an answer you have to accept one fact: You’re lying to yourself.

Well, your brain is lying to you because it’s not showing you everything your eyes are seeing. But it’s not your brains fault. The eyes are just transmitting more information per millisecond than your brain can communicate to you. Think of your brain as a translator between you and your eyes. The eyes are communicating so fast the brain has to pick and choose what information is the most important to show you in the moment (the stuff that will keep you alive the longest) and what details can be eliminated or blurred into recognizable shapes.

The brain also has a few tricks to make the translation a little or clear and uninterrupted. Given just a few details about an object in front of you (in your line of focus) the brain will know what that thing is from memory and simply show you what you already know. The eye only has a single point of focus, which is dead center in the middle of the pupil. As you move away from that point of ultimate focus and clarity the image you see becomes less detailed with fewer colors and blurred edges. To the point where at the farthest edges of your vision, the image is black and white, and a complete blur; but you’ll never see it because as soon as you focus on that image on the edge it becomes your primary focus. That peripheral edge of vision is simply a world of shape and movement.

One of our brain’s most amazing tricks is called Saccadic Masking or Saccadic Suppression. The easiest way to explain this trick is to think about when you’re shooting a video and move the camera quickly from left to right. The image blurs during the move because the lens is moving too quickly to collect all the information about what’s in front of it. Your eyes do the exact same thing. When you whip your head from left to right your eyes only see the motion blur, but you will never be shown the blur because your brain is able to remove segments of the movement and piece together a stable and clear image from what it knows. If it didn’t do this we’d probably be sick and dizzy from all the motion.

Another trick our brain loves to play comes from its constant need to always solve problems and explain our surroundings to us (call it Brainsplaining, like Mansplaining, but for everyone). Your brain hates confusion and uncertainty, and it will do all it can to make sense of what you’re seeing. It will even make up the entire thing from what it has on file, just so it has an answer for you, even if it’s wrong (i.e. Mansplaining). Think about when you see something for the first time. You focus on that thing longer and with more concentration because your brain is trying to make sense of it and match it to something it already has on record. When it can’t it then records it as something new.

But with all this lying the brain only wants one thing: For you to be happy. It’s there to show you the world you want to see, and if that means creating something out of nothing, it’s going to do it every chance it has. The brains of paranormal investigators have incredible fun doing this. That squishy rolodex between your ears loves reaching into its bag of imagination and creating ghosts, ufos, aliens, sasquatch, and other legendary creatures. All it needs is the right setting, the perfect mood, and just enough information from the eyes to work its magic.

So the question is or questions are:
WHAT IF we’re seeing ghosts all the time, but our brains aren’t showing them to us? But at the same time, WHAT IF our brains are taking the limited information we’re seeing and creating a ghost because that’s exactly what we want to see?

The answer: There isn’t one. All we can do is remember that we are being lied to and we need to question what we think we see always! Especially if we’re seeing “something” in low light or no light. The dark only makes our brains work harder to take the limited information it’s receiving to create the images we need to see.

The thing to focus on here is the fact that you might see something at a haunted location, but is it what you really saw?