Truth Seeking, the beginning.

My wife and I were walking along the South Bank, close to the London Eye, when a group of three women walked past us.  To my wife I said: “Did you see that girl?”  She answered; “The pretty one?  Yes.”

I believe this means more than you might think.



I tried to find out which of the two images above had the strongest impact on those who looked at it.  My blog’s not very well known, so the responses haven’t been many and I am very, very grateful to those who did respond.

The predicted outcome was anywhere between 80% to 100% preferring the image on the right.  It turned out to be 75% to 80%, which is a strong enough indicator. The ‘model’ itself is flawed (mea culpa) and results may have been affected.

There are other compositional things going on in these images which someone more knowledgeable could explain, and I made a significant error, perhaps, in not rendering the right hand image thus:


This image, cropped from the original this afternoon, is most likely to be the kind of end result that a painter would paint.  In the vast majority of still life paintings (and probably in most paintings of most subjects) overlapping elements are a key part of the composition.

Overlapping hides.  If there is nothing hidden there is nothing beyond the superficial for the brain to deduce and the brain, usually, gets quickly bored. In a two dimensional shape the brain does not see an image of a bottle with a chunk cut out of its lower left corner but uses knowledge it already contains to determine what the hidden part actually looks like.

It could be wrong – the 3D original of the bottle might actually be differently shaped or in some way damaged – but the brain factors in prior knowledge and understanding to solve a logical problem. 

The brain enjoys such deductive games – games which probably originated in a need to work out whether or not a perceived object – a moving branch, an ill-defined sound or a cloud formation in the sky represented a benison or a threat.  We retain the faculty for similar purposes, but it is probably also why we enjoy certain kinds of images as well as quizzes, arguments and who-dunnits.

And the pretty girl?  She looked something like this: 

All three women wore black hijab (body covering) and niqab (face covering), yet neither of us had trouble identifying ‘the pretty one’.

I don’t say this to take a swipe at hijab or niqab, though I’m not very fond of the latter for my own particular reasons, but to illustrate the extent to which ‘hiding’ the body – which in different ways we all do – really doesn’t work very well, the extent to which the human brain uses deduction based on prior information to see, even when the ‘seen’ would rather not be.

Now I have to hope this makes sense. Next post: Truth Seeking; what exactly is sex?

Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “Truth Seeking, the beginning.”

  1. Denise says :

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the weekend. Great experiment and conclusion and illustrative conversation with your wife. Look forward to seeing where this goes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: