Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Science of Everyday Thinking: Illusion

Hi, there.

So, I have been enrolled to one of the courses in edX called "The Science of Everyday Thinking". The first time I noticed the course on the list, I got excited because--as you probably can tell--I'm into discussions on how mind works and this course could add the scientific side of my gibberish posts about the mind. Also I want to learn how to manipulate other's mind *smirk*.

I've been on 4 episodes so far and I want to stop for a while, think back, and actually take notes on what I find interesting. Because "you are not understand it yet if you can't explain it", right?

In the first episode I filled out a survey form about beliefs and my way of thinking (which one is more characteristic, which one isn't). I worried a bit because I thought the course would provoke beliefs, at the very most: questioning God. But no, I guess it is about how we think, generally on everything. Each episode shows an interesting experiments conducted by experts, here they are:


Have you ever heard about subliminal message? An innocent forward message which becomes satanic when it turns backward? No? Okay, I'll show you one:

This is somewhere between ridiculous and frightening, does it not?

A researcher named John Vokey was involved in the subliminal message phenomenon in early 80s in America. Not the Dora case, no. There was a case where two teenagers committed suicide right after a party where they got drunk, listened to a rock music, and smoked marijuana (one was actually dead, the other was just severely injured). Why did they do that? The teenagers said that because life sucks--typical teenagers. But the parents and a local priest had a different idea, they believed the song that the teenagers listened to brought a subliminal message when it's played backwards. "It's fun to smoke marijuana", it said. Which then led the teens to get high and kill themselves.

The priest said that if the sentence in the song was presented forward, people would understand the message, and if it's bad, they would reject it. But when it's presented backward, people would be unaware of the source except themselves. They couldn't protect themselves from the idea that was created solely in their mind. I think it is what is called hallucination.

He even convinced people by playing the song repeatedly and pointing out that it really said "it's fun to smoke marijuana". People then believed it as well. Again, in my opinion, actually when people is showed something by other person (particularly something that the other person sees), people will have a tendency to see it too because "we see what we expect to see". Simple as that.

John Vokey then tried to proof whether the claim was right or wrong. Eventually, he and his team showed that people can't really be influenced by the backward message (if they were not pointed out before). Yes, people are able to recognize the gender of the speaker and what language it is spoken in. But they can't even tell the difference between a sentence and a question, let alone to discover whether the message is evil or not. So the subliminal message was only an illusion.

This case showed there is a fallacy, an error, when it comes to a thinking process. The professors in the course called it "fundamental cognitive error". It is when we don't recognize that we've made an interpretation and that there are a million ways that it could've been interpreted. I guess it's not a news. But I think it's interesting (yet creeps me out) because our mind is easily disrupted, manipulated by our environment.

Other experiment that showed this error is the four-stockings experiment. There were four stockings, laid on a table and random people were asked to pick the best of them. The stockings were identical yet the result was the last stocking on the right got picked the most. When people then were asked why they chose it, they said it got better quality, softer, and so on. In my opinion, that was because people were asked to choose the best, which was to choose one out of four. This is the persuasion all over again, when someone wants us to do something, we tend to anchor our action based on what he/she says. I think that is (one of many ways on) how people communicate. We correspond to each other's way of thinking.

Okay I don't wanna make this a tl;dr* post (which probably I already have, haha, sorry). Let me show you a trailer of the movie that relates to this post.

The reasons why I watched this movie is simply because there's Emma Watson and it's a psychological thriller (I'm a faint-hearted yet I'm fascinated by--some, not all--horror and thriller stories). But then it left me with a quite strong message that, yes, people's mind are easily modified. !spoiler alert! It's the girl who actually planted all the imaginative thoughts to her family which drove them crazy because they thought the events were real. To be creepier, it was based on a true story. I mean, it's really happening. *shiver*

Okay, back to the world as we know it. With all this theories and illusions, the other message that is also and most important is that we should keep God in our heart. As moslem, it is paramount to have Allah in our heart and mind so those negative thoughts shall be blocked. Isn't it satan's work who constantly alter our mind to do misleading things that Allah resents? I seek refugee from Allah from the outcast satan.

So, what your opinion about this mind trick? Leave a comment below if you have something tingling on your mind as well.


*too long; didn't read


  1. Bisa dipake buat kampanye mempengaruhi pemilih yah ini... Heuheu

  2. Bisa dipake buat kampanye mempengaruhi pemilih yah ini... Heuheu