I went to In-N-Out for my almost weekly burger and fries. As I pulled into the parking spot, I found a bunch of empty spots near the front. Sweet! I proceeded to maneuver my car so I could park backing in. As I pressed on the brakes to stop the car from reversing as I eased into the spot, I saw that there were people in the SUV parked in the spot on the passenger side of my car.
All of a sudden, I felt my car lurch backward and accelerate in reverse. My foot was already on the brake pedal so I didn’t want to move it off lest it made things worse. My car had gone out of control! I braced myself for the crash but it didn’t come. And the car finally stopped moving. Then I saw the SUV that was parked next to me leave its parking spot.
Then it dawned on me. My Accord wasn’t moving of its own accord. It had actually stopped like I wanted it to. But right about when I stopped, that SUV started pulling out. I wasn’t expecting to see the SUV back out of its spot. I thought that it was still. Its unanticipated motion created the illusion that I was moving despite my own stillness.
It’s amazing how easily the visual system could be tricked despite all other cues. I drive enough not to have to think about the difference between the brake and accelerator. During that moment, I started doubting myself… is my foot on the brake or gas?
Not only could the visual system be fooled by non-existing circumstances, but the visceral response is about as real as could be. I was friggin scared. I tried to prepare my body for the crash. If I had been older, I could have been in danger of a heart attack!
So reconsider the “visual” sayings…
“Seeing is believing”
“I’ll believe it when I see it”