A Scenario: You are presented with a cube. You are not
allowed to touch this cube but you can maneuver yourself so that
you can see all but one side of the cube. Each of the other five sides you can see are flat,
colored blue and have a yellow star in the center. What is your first assumption concerning
the appearance of the sixth side which you can not see? You have to assume it also is flat and
blue with a yellow star. You assume this because all evidence gained from the other sides would
point to such an appearance of the sixth side and we have no reason to think it might be
different. It would be silly to assume the other side actually has holes in it, is colored
green and has pink Xs in each corner because you have no evidence to support it. This is how
you interpret most images you see - assuming the simplest explanation.
Your eyes and brain work under a system often called the
Generic View Principle. This principle takes known information and assumes the simplest
possibility for unknown information. In other words, this principle assumes you are seeing an
object from a generic view, or a non-accidental view. When you viewed the cube you assumed that
seeing the cube in a way that could be seen from any angle, not just the specific angle you were
Test your Generic View:
Generic View and Dimension
Given the two-dimensional image of two lines in Figure 1, the
Generic View Principle explains why we assume that these two lines meet to forma V-shape.
We assume that we are viewing these two lines from a generic, or general, view. We can look at
these two lines at any point in space, three-dimensions, and they would remain together at one
end. What are the chances, however, that this assumption is incorrect? Perhaps the two lines
actually would look like the two lines in Figure 2 if we were to view them at any other point in
space. Yet looking at Figure 1, we still assume that our initial perception is correct and that
these two lines do meet to form a V-shape.
This type of assumption is
built into our thinking automatically by the Generic View Principle. We teach ourselves to
assume that any intersection of lines in two dimensions also occurs in three dimensions.
This part of the Generic View Principle is key in interpreting pictures correctly.
Similarly to the Generic View Principle, however, these assumptions do not always prove
Test Your Generic View:
Here is a hexagon divided into six symmetrical sections. This image is drawn in two dimensions but we must assume that it would maintain its shape when looked at from Most directions in space. This figure in this view appears to be a cube. Yet, the previous view told us that this figure was not a cube, but a hexagon. This idea of two-dimensional intersections occurring in three-dimensions proved incorrect in this case. You have discovered an accidental view of this cube and you immediately assumed that the intersection of the lines in the center of the hexagon would remain when viewed in three-dimensions.
You may find it useful to keep in the back of your head that maybe you are seeing something from a unique view. Just maybe if you move to one side you will see a completely different object. Generally, however, the Generic View Principle constructs a correct view of an object. We are not often restricted to one view and thus by moving can disprove most any doubt that we have found a unique perspective.