As Superman flies over the city, people on the ground famously suppose they see a bird, then a plane, and then finally realize it’s a superhero. But they haven’t just spotted the Man of Steel – they’ve experienced the ideal conditions to create a very strong memory of him.
Johns Hopkins University cognitive psychologists are the first to link human’s long-term visual memory with how things move. The key, they found, lies in whether we can visually track an object. When people see Superman, they don’t think they’re seeing a bird, a plane and a superhero. They know it’s just one thing – even though the distance, lighting and angle change how he looks.