Johann Poggendorff discovered this optical illusion in 1860. Brown line A on the left, clearly is unbroken and runs contiguously through the vertical lines. Green line B however, appears to come out as a red line, but in actuality (in reality), the green line and the blue line are the same line (co-linear). No matter how hard you stare at this optical illusion, however, you will not see reality — you will see the illusion. Even if you concentrate on the intellectual fact that the blue and green lines are co-linear, you will constantly see the red segment as co-linear instead.
There are thousands of such wonderful optical illusions. Why do they occur? Because the human nervous system does not perfectly replicate reality — it comes with all sorts of apparent glitches. Well, “glitches” only if you expect your perceptions to always be accurate. Mind you, mental mechanisms are amazingly good enough to survive and prosper, but they are far from being perfect replicators.
Besides visual, auditory and other sensual illusions, the brain reveals its evolutionary constraints also in cognitive illusions: thoughts and beliefs we have that don’t match reality but are almost impossible not to experience due to cognitive ‘glitches’. Coming to truly understand our perceptive and cognitive limitations, is important when trying to understand our world.
Hyper-patternicity is one such cognitive illusion. As I wrote before, research shows that believers in the paranormal, for the better and the worse, are more prone to this cognitive illusion. Another cognitive illusion that feeds most religious thinking is the mind-body duality: that a thing called a soul, a spirit or a mind lives separately from the body and thus survives death. Unfortunately, the other illusions, this illusion presently impossible to empirically test. But if it is truly a cognitive illusion, it would explain why “religion”, to many folks, is just common sense.
Mixing fear, hope and this cognitive illusion of a soul results is in the illusion of eternity: either through heaven or reincarnation. Can we will ourselves out of the mind-body illusion and thus from believing in eternity? Yes. But I contend that the probability of never perceiving the illusion of eternity is small.
Note: In my index post “My Supernatural Experiences“, I list the experiences according to the brain areas which would create the possible illusion: visual, auditory, kinesthetic (bodily) and emotive.