Postdiction: Setting Perceptions of an Earlier Event

Everyone knows about prediction, because we often discuss how best we can accurately see into the future. Who predicted this? Consider also the opposite, postdiction, where we discuss how best we can accurately see into the past. Who postdicted this?

Researchers at Caltech are calling their emerging research in this area an insight into time-traveling. Really it’s just manipulating integrity of stored data. With prediction we would say someone has true clarity of what will come. With postdiction the brain can have true clarity of what has been.

Caltech researchers have developed two new illusions that reveal how the senses can influence each other — in particular, how sound can give rise to visual illusions. These illusions occur so quickly that they illustrate a phenomenon called postdiction (as opposed to prediction) in which a stimulus that occurs later can retroactively affect our perceptions of an earlier event.

[…] how does the brain determine reality with information from multiple senses that is at times noisy and conflicting? The brain uses assumptions about the environment to solve this problem. When these assumptions happen to be wrong, illusions can occur as the brain tries to make the best sense of a confusing situation. We can use these illusions to unveil the underlying inferences that the brain makes.

In brief, the experiments manipulate the brain by associating a sound to only two of three images. The brain later believes it saw only two images because it heard no sound for one of the three images; a simple trick to make things seem invisible when they lack the data of other things.

This seems to be an inverse method to distraction, which nets the same result. Instead of drawing someone’s attention away for a single event, add a stream of data for all events, then remove it during an attack to hide it.

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