Tonight’s agenda was Science on Tap, with beer goggles! Anne was feeling well enough that she went to school today, but she declined to accompany us tonight, because of her cough. She had returned to the original scene of the crime, kindergarten. She felt that a hacking cough during the middle of a lecture might be too distracting to others. Damn the consumptives! Joanie’s friend Vicki joined us though and after the talk, we met with friends, neighbors and bike buddies, Phil and Mary. WashU Psychologist Richard Abrams was the night’s speaker:
His recent research on visual perception has shown that we see things near our hands differently. We focus more intently on objects near the hands, and we process aspects of them uniquely. These changes occur presumably because we can potentially touch them and pick them up. He reviewed research from his lab and others that reveals the special status that the brain gives to objects that are within reach. Taken together, the research shows why you can pick up a bottle of beer (usually) without knocking something over or spilling the beer.
His talk asked the question, “Why is the beer near your hand better than the two across the table?” His following bullets cover his talk’s topics. These bullet items have been shaped to conform to the Bottleworks venue and as such appear somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Analogies aside, his research seems important.
- You examine it more thoroughly.
- You are better able to direct mental effort to it.
- Special mechanisms help you avoid knocking over the other beers.
- (Unless you are old.)
- Beer that you can reach looks closer.
- The beer looks closer if the person next to you can reach it.
- Imagination may also produce many of these benefits.
A Schlafly representative asked Abrams for a recommendation for reshaping the planform of their six beer flight place mat. After some thought and more dithering he recommended a semicircle over the existing three by two pattern. Originally, it seemed that he was contemplating different patterns for different ages (old and not old), but he decided upon a one size fits all solution. I asked him if he had investigated differences attributable to handedness. He had not. Only after the talk did I think of a follow-up question, “Are you left-handed?” Anne reminded me of what her Aunt Betty felt about glasses, she always found it easiest to reach for the nearest, fullest glass.