Superstitious perceptions reveal properties of internal representations

  • Gosselin F
  • Schyns P
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Everyone has seen a human face in a cloud, a pebble, or blots on a wall. Evidence of superstitious perceptions has been docu- mented since classical antiquity, but has received little scientific atten- tion. In the study reported here, we used superstitious perceptions in a new principled method to reveal the properties of unobservable object representations in memory. We stimulated the visual system with un- structured white noise. Observers firmly believed that they perceived the letter S in Experiment 1 and a smile on a face in Experiment 2. Us- ing reverse correlation and computational analyses, we rendered the memory representations underlying these superstitious perceptions.

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  • Frédéric Gosselin

  • Philippe G. Schyns

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