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Seeing may not be believing with motorcycles

The "Start Seeing Motorcycles" campaign has been running for years. Yet, every day in Houston, motorcyclist are witness to incomprehensible behavior by drivers of cars and trucks. They pull out directly in front of bikes, as if the motorcycle was invisible. This, of course, leads to frequent motorcycle accidents, which are never a good thing for motorcycle riders.

How can the drivers of cars or trucks fail to see the bikes? Well, recent research indicates, they may in fact see the motorcycle and recognize that it is approaching. But, perception is not a "fact," but a construction of the mind. What is sensed on the retina must be converted by the brain into the image of a shiny Harley or Honda approaching. At this step of the creation of the image, it appears there is a flaw in the way brain processes these images, that leads to motorcycle accidents.

The brain recognizes the absolute size of the image of a motorcycle on the retina. This is known as the optical invariant. However, the brain also uses the "artist cues" that a painter uses to show perspective, that are known as the brain's "rules of thumb."

With the rules of thumb, the brain interprets larger images as being closer and smaller objects as being further away, and this process can override the optical invariant in such a way that people will mistake a motorcycle as being at a greater distance, even when it is closer than a larger object.

Much education may be necessary for other drivers to overcome this basic miscalculation.

Source: Claims Journal, “Vehicle/Motorcycle Accident Link to Brain Miscalculation: Study,” Sept. 10, 2013

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