Why is this visual representation intelligible?


Elder offspring: Hey, that's a cool chili pepper necklace.

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you know that I've had this necklace for about ten years and you are the first person who didn't think it was a carrot?

Elder offspring: A carrot? That doesn't look like a carrot!

Dr. Free-Ride: I didn't think so, either. But I'm guessing it's because the chili is orange, and people don't recognize orange chilies as easily as red ones.

Elder offspring: Still, the shape's all wrong for a carrot.

Dr. Free-Ride: I'm really pleased with your powers of observation and your ability to distinguish different fruits and vegetables based on subtle differences in shape.

Elder offspring: Thank you.

Younger offspring: (Coming into the room) Is that a chili pepper necklace?

Dr. Free-Ride: See, you didn't think it was a carrot, either!

Younger offspring: Did you get that at Chili's? No, the shape isn't exactly like the chili in the logo.

Dr. Free-Ride: I'm still pleased about the powers of observation, but suddenly less pleased about the objects of observation.

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When I saw the necklace picture I immediately thought it was a chili. I happen to love chilis (the fruits, not quite so much the restaurants), so maybe familiarity helps. After you mentioned carrot, I saw that possibiity too, but the interesting part is trying to figure out exactly why it looks like a chili and not a carrot.

By Mark Paris (not verified) on 28 Sep 2006 #permalink

Heh, I saw a carrot, because I've looked at carrots a LOT in my life and since I can't eat chilis, I've rarely looked at one. I've seen a lot of carrots that shape, so I'm not sure why it would be the "wrong" shape, though I could see that maybe it's not the most stereotypical carrot shape.

Here's another thought on the speculation as to why we see what we see:

When I was quite little, I started getting my own chores in the family garden. Carrots were the first crop I was put in charge of, since they're hard to mess up. My family never ate chilis when I was little. So my early exposure to objects roughly that shape is carrots=lots, chilis=nearly none. Perhaps early exposure to images/shapes is a part of it.

I'm not the daily chili eater I once was, but I still enjoy them from time to time. To me the picture was immediately a chili in front of sweater, but I didn't realize it was a necklace until I saw older offspring's comment. Somewhat related - I've noticed many people regularly refer to wasps as 'bees'. As to the restaurant, either it isn't memorable, or I've never been there.

It's too red to be a carrot. I guess orange chilis are still redder than carrots.

This would be so much less confusing if carrots still had purple spots, damnit.

By Thomas Winwood (not verified) on 28 Sep 2006 #permalink

For the record, when I saw you yesterday I thought it was a chili but I was too tired to say "what's up with the chili?"

I suspect it's a matter of familiarity, but even 10 years ago, I would have called that for a chili immediately. BTW, Chili's is a mid-range chain restaurant.

Besides the classic color (and that's well in the range), the rounding to the stem base and the contours of the main fruit are immediately recognizable. A carrot would have a differently-shaped base, the cone would be longer and straighter, and some of the surface features might be depicted. (Rootlet knots, transverse ridges...)

By David Harmon (not verified) on 28 Sep 2006 #permalink

I saw that immediately as a chili, probably because it looks basically red to me. Only when you said it was orange did I realize it was somewhat out of the core reddish range. Also, I guess it's a bit fatter than carrots stereotypically are, but the shape otherwise looks more carrotty than chili-y to me.

And for the record, I'm one of those people that call wasps "bees". At a certain point my boyfriend told me that was incorrect, and then when I assumed that wasps, hornets, yellowjackets, and bees were all parallel groups, he said that "wasps" refers to all the ones that aren't bees, which confuses me.