Saturday, October 13, 2007

Yes, it rotates: but in what direction?

New Scientist contains a link to a really fascinating optical illusion representing dancing (very!) beautiful woman. The dancer rotates and the direction of rotation is told to be determined by the dominating brain hemisphere which need not be always the same. Right-brainers should see the dancer to rotate clockwise and left-brainers anticlockwise. Most people see it rotate anticlockwise.

I found that my dancer rotates clockwise. I am a right-brainer! This should mean that the following right brain functions work very well for me if I am an ideal right-brainer.

RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS: uses feeling, "big picture" oriented, imagination rules, symbols and images, present and future, philosophy & religion, can "get it" (i.e. meaning), believes, appreciates, spatial perception, knows object function, fantasy based, presents possibilities, impetuous, risk taking.

I cannot deny of recognizing something familiar in this list, and probably this blog serves as a justification for this feeling. I suddenly feel very good and I realize that weather outside is also beautiful! Before going for a walk I must tell that if I had been an ideal left-brainer, I would have been happy because the following brain functions would work especially well for me.

LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS: uses logic, detail oriented, facts rule, words and language, present and past, math and science, can comprehend, knowing, acknowledges, order/pattern perception, knows object name, reality based, forms strategies, practical, safe.

Well, many physicist colleagues agree that I am a pathetic crackpot who is not able to comprehend even the simplest survival rules of the academic environment, and I fully agree that I am not able to form strategies: painful and humiliating experiences from the game of chess taught this to me when I was young. My friends agree that my behavior is certainly not reality based, and that I am hopelessly unpractical, and safety has not been the priority number one in my life. Language is however the manner which I use in my efforts to express myself and I occasionally try to use also logic. I make also attempts to not forget the details so that there seems to be at least a strong motivation to use these very useful left brain functions.

It would be even better if one could change the brain hemisphere dominance: if not for any other purpose then for the noble ability to feel compassion towards all those left-brainers around me worrying about practicalities of everyday life. This should be possible. Meditation practitioners tell that by blocking the other nostril and breathing through nose it is possible change the brain hemisphere dominance. I tried the right nostril but it did not work: perhaps my strong motivation to remain in the big picture mood explains partially the outcome of the experiment.

Having realized how beautiful and holistic this right-brainy world is I went for a walk to get a better view of it. It occurred to me that perhaps the brain hemisphere dominance would change if I try to put myself into the shoes of a skeptic. What if the whole thing is a big joke of bad skeptics? What if all of us see the dancer to rotate clockwise and become very happy as they discover their creativity and the ability to see the big picture? Then they go to their blog and tell everyone about their right-brainy mind and bad skeptics have big bad fun. Or could it be that it is just the creative minority which sees the dancer to rotate counterclockwise? How cruel these skeptics can be!

I came back to the computer and looked. Just in the beginning the dancer made an attempt to rotate counterclockwise but started immediately to spin clockwise. It stopped for a moment now and then but this probably relates to the delays in internet connections. Then I decided to make a new trial by blocking the right nostril and the dancer indeed made two counter-clockwise half turns but nothing more! Perhaps I must still develop my ability to feel compassion towards the suffering part of human kind!

In my attempts to become a skeptic I stumbled with the question about how global this left-right dominance really is. Is it really a property of the entire brain hemisphere as the holistic me wants to believe? Could it be that different regions of brain can be in right/left modes independently? Probably this has been studied.


CarlBrannen said...

For me she rotates clockwise, if "clockwise" means as one would see if one were looking from above.

A better way of describing the effect is to ask, "is she standing on her right or left left?" I can see it either way, but my inclination is left.

Matti Pitkänen said...

Yes, I have taken 'clockwise' in this sense, probably because we look wrist clock in this manner.

I remember that there are also experiments (sensory or visual rivalry would probably give links in Google or Wikipedia) demonstrating that left-right brain dominance varies in much shorter time scale, now the time of dominance seems rather long. Which suggests that there is a time scale hierarchy of dominances involved.

Kea said...

Clockwise for me too!

Kea said...

No, wait! I can make her go anti-clockwise too! But she likes to go clockwise.