Author Topic: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds  (Read 1139 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline rickymooston

Another explanation for religion, along the lines perhaps of Sagan's works and Shermer's derived work "why do people believe strange things" is the Pattern Matching engine called the brain.

We see patterns, even when in fact those patterns are not necessarily the general case. For example, a cloud is random. Its not "evolved" or produced by any interative process in the way something "designed" like life is. You have a glob and the glob emerges into some kind of shape.

All the same, we can deduce the existnece of images from clouds. I saw a Buddha cloud while being at a famous monestry in China. The impact on me was pretty powerful.

This ability is useful. Science would never have advanced without intuition and an ability to generate hypothesis. Of course, science is never satisfied with this and has standards for confirming or falsifying hypothesis. But heuristics are sometimes useful, the general patterns may have a better change of being "true" when one is face with life/death decisions and not making
a decision at all came be fatal. Making a suboptimal decision is better often than making none at all.

Anyway, I'm interested in how the human mind can deduce patterns where in fact no true pattern exists and how this relates to religiosity, if it does.

I've noticed some people don't seem to see images in clouds. Perhaps those people are less likely to be religious? I really wonder.
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Offline Noman Peopled

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1904
  • Darwins +24/-1
  • Gender: Male
  • [insert wittycism]
Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2011, 03:15:36 AM »
Anyway, I'm interested in how the human mind can deduce patterns where in fact no true pattern exists and how this relates to religiosity, if it does.
The "why" of the first question is easy - pattern recognition is a useful trait and occasionally seeing patterns where there are none is more beneficial than not seeing patterns where some are.
The "how" is a tough nut, what with the monstrous complexity of the brain, not even going into the unanswered questions about the nature of consciousness.

As for the second question, it surely does factor into religion as it does, in fact, factor into every worldview. How could it not?
The real crux is not that random patterns are sometimes falsely recognized as non-random paterns, imo - that's just an imperfection of our perception, very much like seeing two lines of different lengths in an optical illusion featuring two lines of equal length.
The bigger factor by far is the attribution of agency to patterns perceived - correctly or otherwise. This is of course again easily explained as a beneficial trait. A threat is a threat no matter if it's a flashfire or a wolf pack and the distinction is irrelevant if the goal is simple survival and nothing more.

But of course the combination of the two does have some ramifications that are perhaps more important in the formation and maintaining of religiousity than they are elsewhere. Where there is (pre)supposed agency and explanations are sought, those explanations will entail agency - and thus, motives.
Unidentified false patterns need explaining in much the same way. Add the usual heuristic biases to pattern recognition and it's easy to see how patently nonexistant phenomena suddenly demand explanation - explanations that, once the biases as well as agency are removed, seem patently absurd in retrospect.
"Deferinate" itself appears to be a new word... though I'm perfectly carmotic with it.
-xphobe

Offline rickymooston

Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2011, 02:43:51 PM »
What's interesting perhaps is that some people are "better" at perceiving such patterns than others. I suspect that sort of thing may lead to those people being more likely to be religious or spiritual.

I agree, the "why" is clear. Patterns are indeed useful.

I did some experiments on another forum and was surprised others didnt see many images in clouds. They just saw clouds.

"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Online jaimehlers

  • Fellow
  • *******
  • Posts: 4937
  • Darwins +563/-17
  • Gender: Male
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2011, 02:53:29 PM »
It's the same thing with constellations.  And probably to do with why people venerated planets, the moon, and the sun.

Personally, I just see clouds myself, although I often will describe the cloud as a "something-shaped" cloud.

Offline rickymooston

Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2011, 11:10:51 PM »
Personally, I just see clouds myself, although I often will describe the cloud as a "something-shaped" cloud.

Once you start saying a something shaped cloud, you are seeing images in them.

For example, you see a cloud which sort of looks like snoopy and even has snoopy's eyes.
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Online jaimehlers

  • Fellow
  • *******
  • Posts: 4937
  • Darwins +563/-17
  • Gender: Male
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2011, 10:07:59 AM »
No, I'm seeing a resemblance to an image.  That's not the same thing as seeing an actual image in a cloud, since clouds are formed by natural weather processes and thus any 'image' that appears in them is purely coincidental.

Offline Noman Peopled

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1904
  • Darwins +24/-1
  • Gender: Male
  • [insert wittycism]
Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2011, 03:41:24 AM »
No, I'm seeing a resemblance to an image.  That's not the same thing as seeing an actual image in a cloud, since clouds are formed by natural weather processes and thus any 'image' that appears in them is purely coincidental.
I'd say that it's the same thing, the same pattern recognition process at work, but that the interpretation differs. It's like looking at an optical illusion and saying the lines are exactly the same length because you just drew the damn thing, but they look different all the same.
In short, I'd say, pattern recognition presents you with the same data set but you interpret it differently in a different area of your brain.

If you didn't know that clouds don't form real faces - let's say that instead you're in an ancient cave and you're trying to determine whether a colored area is a highly stylized bison or a random natural coloration - you'd have more difficulty.



But of course that's just my working hypothesis and pattern recognition itself may work quite differently in different people. For example, there are people who interpret the white space around Rohrschach pictures and ignore the inked areas.
I once did a full-blown psych evaluation and the shrink was quite puzzled over my interpretations, as I interpreted the white as well as the colored spaces and didn't care for the vertical alignment at all.
"Deferinate" itself appears to be a new word... though I'm perfectly carmotic with it.
-xphobe

Online jaimehlers

  • Fellow
  • *******
  • Posts: 4937
  • Darwins +563/-17
  • Gender: Male
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2011, 12:37:41 PM »
Noman:  Fair enough.  It's a matter of education and knowledge.  If I weren't educated and didn't have the knowledge to know any differently, then I might too think there was actually something up there making those clouds into shapes I recognized.

Offline rickymooston

Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2011, 10:27:54 PM »
No, I'm seeing a resemblance to an image.

Then the answer to the question I asked would be yes. Answering "no" is only nitpicking.


  That's not the same thing as seeing an actual image in a cloud, since clouds are formed by natural weather processes and thus any 'image' that appears in them is purely coincidental.

Did I suggest that it was the same? Of course not. In fact, what I was interested in, was the combination of
a) human psychology and b) random patterns.

That is obviously what I was talking about. I wasn't trying to imply that some intelligent designer produce
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Online jaimehlers

  • Fellow
  • *******
  • Posts: 4937
  • Darwins +563/-17
  • Gender: Male
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2011, 10:43:41 PM »
Yes, it's nitpicking, but no, it's not nitpicking.  It is important to make the distinction between something that someone actually makes (like skywriting), and something that happens to bear the resemblance to something.  Otherwise you end up not understanding that some things that appear meaningful are formed by natural processes while others are formed by intentional effort.

Offline rickymooston

Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2011, 10:53:17 PM »
Yes, it's nitpicking, but no, it's not nitpicking.  It is important to make the distinction between something that someone actually makes (like skywriting), and something that happens to bear the resemblance to something.  Otherwise you end up not understanding that some things that appear meaningful are formed by natural processes while others are formed by intentional effort.

Have you read Michael Shermer (why people believe weird things) where he discusses the difference between having an experience and interpreting it?

I garantee my personal interpretation doesn't involve some intelligent entity doing magic sky writing, as appealing as that may sometimes be to my right brain.

I had not supplied an interpretation but solicited people to obtain their experience. You had the experience of detecting patterns on random shapes.

The explanation of the experience can involve:
-- the nature of the "random"1 physical process involved
-- the pattern matching abilities in your right mind

Now, if a young child drew some patterns, those patterns may look very much like the clouds you see but have intent. You can't necessarily read the intent in the drawing itself.

1 - I don't know much about cloud formation but the processes may have several inherent patterns that they frequently produ
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Online jaimehlers

  • Fellow
  • *******
  • Posts: 4937
  • Darwins +563/-17
  • Gender: Male
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2011, 11:05:38 PM »
My point is that a person has to be able to nitpick - to be critical - in order to be able to judge whether something is natural or artificial.  It's not the only skill, but it's an important one to have.

Offline rickymooston

Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2011, 11:31:24 PM »
My point is that a person has to be able to nitpick - to be critical - in order to be able to judge whether something is natural or artificial.  It's not the only skill, but it's an important one to have.

Well, if a psychologist gave you an inkblot test, you would claim to see only ink?

The psychologist asking the question, like me, isn't asking whether you think the shapes in the ink were caused by an intelligent entity but what patters you see.

In my case, I was curious whether different people see the same patterns. I've found that they don't. That's quite interesting.

In terms of the question of intent, it is not always obvious that intent does or doesn't exist. That is,
there are patterns which would not come out by random chance as far as I know but many that can
be produced either way.   Hell, if you look at a pseudo-design process like evolution, there is in fact "intent" in the process; the intent is that mutations more suited to the environment survive.

Our brains, the only "real" designers we know, are apparently evolved out of this pseudo-design process. In many ways, that pseudo-design process is better than our own human designs. Obviously, it arrives at its answers over a long period of time by trail and error but human engineers still benefit from looking at biology

I find it very curious some people are incapable of answering a simple question.  :police:
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Offline rickymooston

Re: Religion and Psychology : Seeing images in white noise or clouds
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2011, 11:55:16 PM »
Note I do understand your point but my point is the distinction is unnecessary when nobody is making any weird claims here.

If I was going to attempt a bible code style argument, then yes your valid observations would be needed.

In short, we agree. Processes are random and the images (such as they are) are accidental.
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.