Monday, 29 June 2009

The more we study, the closer we get

A couple of weeks back I posted about our bizarre perception of reality regarding the strange Thatcher Effect.

Well, it's not just people who are mentally challenged by this phenomenon. Monkeys are too (I know I that's a picture of chimpanzees, which are apes same as ourselves; so behaving 'like a monkey' goes much further back in time).

Researchers from Emory University, Atlanta showed monkeys normal pictures of other monkeys, either upside down or right way up, until the first monkeys were shit-faced bored of looking at pics of other monkeys.

Then they showed them 'Thatcher effect' doctored images. The image upside down... still bored shitless. Image right way up... hey watzat? The monkeys noticed the difference and suddenly paid attention.

A subtle but insightful result. We all can tell something is wrong with these images, but not say what it is. It's important because troup/mate/sibling/offspring/friend verification is important for social groupings. Much of this is visual, especially in humans, and an individual's face is exactly who they are.

This confronted me a recently when I had to visit my doctor's surgery. I met someone I hadn't seen for years. Recognition was instant; but he called me by name and I could not remember his. I remembered the charity work we used to do, where he used to live, his zippo lighter, the pub where we used to meet up, his stint in the army, where we met up again, where he lives now, how many children he has. But I could not remember his name.

After I had seen my doctor and was leaving he was still there, 'See you later Brian' came from nowhere, and I still can't remember his wife's name.

Ramble over...
Thanks to Cryptozoology Online for the HT and here's the reference:

"Thatcher Effect in Monkeys Demonstrates Conservation of Face Perception across Primates, Ikuma Adachi, Dina P. Chou and Robert R. Hampton", Current Biology (2009) in press (abstract only, unless registered).

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