Mind Games – Tendency to ‘see’ what is not there


Human beings are remarkably prone to ‘see’ things that are not, in truth, there.

“Human beings are remarkably prone to ‘see’ things that are not, in truth, there.

Take for example, the power of suggestion, nicely illustrated by Kenneth Arnold’s famous sighting of the very first flying saucer back in 1963. Arnold was flying his light plane near Mount Rainier in Washington when he saw a series of mysterious shapes in the distance. On landing, he reported these unidentified flying objects.

The news media picked up the story of Arnold’s flying saucers, and, soon after, many other people were reporting the saucer-shaped objects in the sky. They have been reporting them ever since. The saucer-shaped spacecraft has become a staple of science fiction.

But here’s the thing – Arnold did not report seeing flying saucers.

What Arnold said he saw were boomerang-shaped craft that bobbed up and down, somewhat like a saucer would do if skimmed across a lake. The reporter misheard, the story of ‘flying saucers’ entered the public sphere, and other people started reporting saucers too.


Assuming most of them were sincere, and assuming it’s unlikely our alien visitors just happened to switch from using boomerang-shaped craft to saucer-shaped craft in 1963, it seems the saucer reports that followed were, and are, largely a product of the power of suggestion. People see something in the sky, and, because they expect it to be saucer-shaped, that’s how it looks to them.

Expectation strongly shapes perception.” 

(p177-178; S, Law, Believing Bullshit, How not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole)