Flashing Images

January 24, 2009

In an earlier blog I spoke of a tongue-in-cheek desire to assemble a catalog of perceptual patterns humans are likely to get wrong. The example discussed was a visual perception issue—the trajectory of a bouncing ball. I was imagining the catalog as a humorous compendium of cognitive pattern recognition human shortcomings—a handy fallibility reference. However, as seemingly trivial as the trajectory of a bouncing might be, I was nevertheless intrigued by how we can use visual pattern recognition to expose or render visible the social patterns of human behavior.

I think that one of the many strengths of SenseMaker is its ability to visually display these socially derived patterns. As I was thinking about how I can more effectively use the visual aspects of the software to the benefit of myself and clients, I came across an interesting article about how we perceive the Necker Cube. For those that aren’t familiar with the Necker Cube—it’s one of many stable images that can be seen, or perceived, in two different ways (see the link below to take the Necker Cube visual test).

The experiments conducted by Jürgen Kornmeier, Christine Maira Hein, and Michael Bach and reported in their 2008 article, Multistable perception: When bottom-up and top-down coincide in Brain and Cognition yielded a variety of interesting results. I was intrigued by the finding that if the Necker Cube image was flashing it was easier, and a whole lot faster, for human subjects to see both the perceptual alternatives. There was also some evidence that subjects skilled in meditation (Buddhist Monks in this case) are able to stabilize one of the image alternatives for extended periods.

In this experiment, flashing the image made an alternative perception easier for the test subjects to access. I wonder if the stimulation of image flashing would be useful in more effectively exposing pattern differences in visual data sets. It seems to me that anything we can do to both enhance our pattern recognition capacity and expose patterns which are invisible because we don’t know how to see them would be worthwhile.

My status as a guest blogger is coming to a quick end, but the last couple of weeks have been fun. Every time I sat down in front of the computer to write a blog, Dave’s admonition came to mind—the one about knowing more than we can say and saying more than we can write. Ciao

To take the Necker Cube test and read more

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About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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