Mountains Out of Molehills

Mountains out of molehills


Mountains out of molehills
First published on Social Media: Mar 1, 2016

I had many titles for this post. The ass-u-mers, The Bore Who Cried Adolf, A Pipe is just a Pipe, but most of them were, well, a bit hyperbolic.

Anyway, take a look at the image above for a few seconds, and register in your head what it is.

Done that? Good, now scroll down so you can’t see it.

Done that too? Good, now get out a piece of paper and a pencil and see if you can draw the image from memory. This isn’t a test of artistic skills, just see if you remember what the image was of.

Have you finished with that? How well did you remember the image?

If you’re like most people, you could recognise what the image was of. In fact, you knew it so well, that you added some details that weren’t there. Psychologists call that “boundary extension illusion” and graphic designers have another name for it.

Boundary Extension Illusion is very important for filmmakers. Once you’ve established a location, you don’t need to show all of it. The same goes with a prop, or even a person. In fact, if you need an extra shot of a scene and a star is not available, someone else can stand in the star’s place. I heard that in the Looney Tunes movie, they had a stand in for Michael Jordan’s forehead. You know what the rest of Michael Jordan looks like, so having his forehead in frame (or a forehead that looks like his) allows you to imagine the whole man. Sometimes a sound and a good prop will suffice, and you don’t always need an establishing shot.

In film production, Boundary Extension Illusion can save a lot of money. In a sales or recruiting position, it can save a lot of time. When we see a part and we assume a whole, sometimes we get it right. We can see the woods from a few of the trees, at least some of the time we can.

Magicians operate on this principal. They know what you expect to see, and fool you to think that it’s already there. So, they’ll throw a “ball” in the air that you think you see even though it’s not there, and when your brain realises this the ball magically “disappears.” (Don’t worry, no more magic spoilers.)

Of course, this isn’t always a bad thing. When you see smoke, you assume there’s fire, right? And, it’s good to spoke fire ahead of time. But, in your close personal and work relationships, the power to assume can get you into a lot of trouble.

What happens is people stop listening, they start seeing a fire when in reality, it’s just steamy looking breath from the cold. They make false correlations, hasty quixotic decisions, and end up causing problems by solving problems that weren’t there in the first place.

There are the know-it-alls who think that because they’ve been to Paris, they know all of Europe, or they’ve been to New York, they know North America, or they’ve been on a film set, they know everything about filmmaking. They pretend that Portugal and Spain are the same country, or that they are fluent in a language when they know fewer than ten thousand words. These people, normally called “fools”, are unable to ask questions and unable to admit they don’t know things. Truly stupid people think that they are more intelligent than the rest of us, and they often end up with doctorates or some other “proof” of their intelligence that isn’t earned. (The danger comes when they convince others of their supposed intelligence, but that’s another story.)

The ones I dislike most are those who condemn others without enough evidence, and without a fair trial. I’ve always believed in innocent until proven guilty. That doesn’t mean I trust everyone, trust must be earned, just that I refuse to condemn people just because others do.

Almost everything that passes for “news” these days is a condemnation without evidence. Some of it is applause without evidence. When researched, far too much turns out to be false, or at least misleadingly incomplete.

Call me a sceptic, but the truth is that I bought the Brooklyn Bridge a few times as a kid. I was too believing (which isn’t completely a bad thing. It’s easier to learn from the experiences of others if you believe them.)

Experience has taught me that no one knows everything, nothing is certain, and there’s more to life than meets the eye.

Now, take a look back up at that picture. Do you know who that’s an image of? Some of you will guess that right. Can you guess what that person is holding and doing? Probably even easier. Which song is it, and what is the occasion? (You’re not allowed to answer out loud if you were there.)