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Why Do We Believe In Ghosts?

19 Oct

Ghost images and perceptions are everywhere, from childhood sheets thrown over the head to orbs of light found on photographs and mysterious bumps in the night. Humans have believed in ghosts for centuries. Droves of people have stepped forward with their own ghost stories, which range from mysterious sounds to full body apparitions which appear as an actual flesh and blood individual. Psychics cash in on the belief that we do not truly go away when we die, instead we remain with loved ones for support or we attach ourselves to the place where we died. There are many personal reasons to believe in ghosts, however, scientists are beginning to research and discover the empirical reasons for the human insistence on life after death.

According to The Daily Beast, the mind has been proven to “fill in the blanks” where the senses end. The eyes and the ears cannot take in every aspect of an image, so the brain takes over and fills in the missing pieces. The Daily Beast uses the Kanizsa Triangle as an example. Three Pac Man shapes are arranged at three points of a triangle with mouths facing inward. The brain fills in white lines connecting the Pac Man images when no actual lines exist. The human senses are easily tricked into believing something exists when in fact it does not. An interview with a Friar at St. Bonadventure stresses the same point with a different explanation. The Friar insists that emotions contribute to spectral sightings. When college students, mere children afraid of being away from home, begin talking about ghosts, they can create the illusion in their mind then project the illusion into their reality.

The Daily Beast article proceeds to discuss emotions and relations to spacial reality. Certainly, the article argues, emotions at a heightened state will cause a person to see what is not there. The same effect happens in reverse in the brain when a person is not paying attention to what is happening. The brain does not see an object then take in the fact that the object is there; in fact, the brain pays attention to emotions before it pays attention to vision and hearing. Therefore, if a person is deeply saddened by the loss of their mother, the brain recognizes this emotion well before it recognizes the fact that the room is empty, and the brain may project the mother’s image into the room, leading the grieving child to see their mother.

While scientists are continuously studying the human brain and reasons why we see or believe the way we do, the research is ongoing. Perhaps after more research, the facts in The Daily Beast article will be proven or debunked. Either way, people have always believed in ghosts, whether they want to hold on to their loved ones, they have neurological connections that have gone wrong or they have truly seen something that no one can explain. Science is, however, attempting to find the source of ghosts, just as it tried to find the source of lightning, stars, planets and life. Science has succeeded so far; perhaps one day the questions of ghosts will no longer be a question.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/10/24/why-we-believe.html

http://web.sbu.edu/friedsam/archives/studentpages/ghost/new_page_6.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Kanizsa_triangle

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