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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Dragons of Imagination

Dragons of Imagination

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time whatifing.

What if giraffes grew two necks.
What if the world ran out of popcorn?
What if janitors became smarter than teachers?
What if we had carrots for noses?
What if the sky were brown?

Over the time I realized that the potential of this planet for silly deviations is rather limited, so I stopped thinkering with hypothetical scenarios and devoted the rest of my life to study of mathematics instead. But that last question got somehow stuck in my mind and eventually lead me to one of the most fascinating aspects of human cognition - that of perception.

Every day our senses hurl countless gobs and dollops of input into our minds to form an incredibly complex mosaic of observations. And while its most succulent morsels are being slowly chewed on by diffident dragons of imagination, a few renegade neurons in the rest of the brain may wonder if other people have the same experience. If the same external input generates the same perceptional output. Say you stand next to a group of art lovers in a gallery admiring van Gogh's "Starry Night". Do they really see the same swirl of colors as you do? Or do they see slightly different hues? You must have heard the stories of five eye witnesses who for the love of God cannot agree on details of the same crime. Or how a man and a woman may have drastically different recollections of a recent tiff. So when we all look up to the sky, do we really see the same color?

Sure, we can measure the physical wavelength of the light and if it is roughly 450 nanometers, we can ascertain that it is indeed the color commonly known as blue. But do other people perceive that color the same way we do? Do their dragons of imagination taste the same flavor when they chow on it? Or more technically, do those rays of light measuring 450 nanometers between the wave crests give them the same internal sensation? Maybe someone sees that same light from the sky the way I see say brown. Note that they will still call that color blue, because that is what we agreed to call that kind of light. It's just that when they see it, their subjective impression of that color, the tone that they individually perceive, corresponds to what I feel when I see brown. It is possible. And let me say unequivocally, if I saw a brown sky, I'd be depressed all day long.

Ancient Greeks noticed that people have different temperaments, which they ascribed to different fluids or humors (blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm). But I am thinking that maybe somethings else is at work here. Maybe it's them dragons. What if people have different dispositions, because they see sky in different colors. For instance, the sanguine personality type may see the sky as blue, the choleric as red, the melancholic as brown and phlegmatic as yellow. And so they go on with their daily lives driven not by some arcane fluids in their system but by the elemental underlying mood which depends on the color of the sky as it appears to them.

Hey - does that count as a valid psychological theory?

ft

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