table of contents

a look at how humans think and see

Humans' Night Versus Day Perceptions
by David Rudd Cycleback

(c) cycleback 2003, 2005 all rights reserved


















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Even when the objects remain constant and stationary, humans perceive them differently in light versus dark. To humans, objects "appear in the light" and "disappear into the dark."
Due to the physiology of our eyes and how the rods and cones detect light, humans physically see better in daylight than in dark. Humans see more detail and color during daylight. At night things become murkier to hidden, colors fade.

There almost always is light when it is pitch black to humans, but it is in wavelengths human eyes can't detect. Ultraviolet and infrared light are commonly present, but invisible to humans. A human can get a suntan from ultraviolet light and feel the warmth associated with infrared light, yet is unable to see either.

Other animals have night and day vision different from humans. Owls see better in night than in day. It's not that objects like picnic tables and fence posts physically vanish in the dark of night. It's that humans are unable to see them. Owls see them fine.

Geese see ultraviolet light invisible to humans. Geese eyes see all the color we see, plus the color of ultraviolet.

Human thought and culture are shaped by their optical abilities. The night is mysterious with information hidden from view. It is difficult for humans to function at night, more dangerous and filled with out-of-the-ordinary nocturnal creatures. To humans, the night is another world, a place to be avoided or entered with caution.

From a practical standpoint, wariness of night makes sense. For example, it's safer for you or me to sprint through the woods during day than night. That's not superstition, that's good sense.

Darkness is popularly associated with sinister, and light with goodness. Look at the common dark words and phrases:

Dark angel
Dark and mysterious
Shadowy figure
Dark thoughts
Dark and sinister
He has a black heart
The darkness of his soul
Dark motives
He has a dark mind
Heart of Darkness

Human society mostly functions during daylight hours.

Elementary schools don't run at night.

The color black is worn as a statement by brooding teenagers.

In Western culture, white, yellow and other bright colors are associated with happiness and goodness. Someone who is upbeat and smiley is said to be in a bright or sunny mood.
Hell is commonly pictured as shadowy and Heaven as sunny. Good angels are typically described as wearing white. Virginal brides wear white. The Wicked Witch of the West wore black. The Good Witch of the East wore white.

Monsters are commonly called creatures of the night, and genuine creatures of the night, like bats and owls, have been called monsters and demons.

Vampires, as the stories go, rise at night from their coffins and die when exposed to daylight. The cursed man becomes a werewolf at the full moon of the night.


Off Center Night Vision
Have you ever noticed that when you're outside at night, you can see a star better when you're not looking straight at it? The center of your retina does not have rods which are used to see at night. The rods are off center, so you see better at night off center. When looking at a faint star, try turning your head a bit as it may appear brighter out of your periphery.


Given humans' night vision it is not coincidence that humans perceive ghosts as things the come out at night, are pale and colorless, ephemeral, fleeting, peripheral, dreamlike, shimmering, mysterious, otherworldly. Under the shroud of night a lawn chair can look like a shadowy figure. A backpack left on a picnic table can resemble a strange animal. A rustling bush can startle the sheckles out of someone walking home alone. As there is a lack of visual information at night, humans use their imaginations to fill in the story.



(c) david rudd cycleback, all rights reserved