To quote The Beatles, and (with more relevance) Mike Cougill, “Tell me what you see”.
More years ago than I care to remember, I graduated in psychology. One of the things which really interested me was the processing of data. If we take vision, there is so much information streaming into our eyes and yet we can only process a fraction of it at any one time. To cope with this, we have evolved strategies to filter out the usual, and attend to the unusual, on the reasonable evolutionary basis that we need to identify things that might be food, friend or a threat and everything else is background. (When in a state of heightened anxiety, colour vision can cease to function as it requires a lot of energy to process the data, energy which might be needed for the purposes of a fight or a flight.)
A consequence of this is that the human mind is very good at forming stereotypes, particularly when it comes to uncommon things (like, for instance, someone not in the family group, or someone who models to finescale standards). If we see a coincidence of uncommon things, for example most railway modellers are normal people, and that includes finescalers, so a finescaler with a somewhat obsessive attitude becomes doubly unusual, then we form a stereotype based on the distinctiveness, but wrongly attribute the cause: so finescalers are seen as somewhat obsessive. The real problem comes when this becomes an archetype, and unfortunately this happened many years ago in our hobby. What the human mind then does is to look for confirmatory evidence to back this up, to preserve the distinctiveness, and myths arise and the “evidence” is routinely put forward to bolster the opinion of those who are threatened by things which do not conform to their way of thinking.
But it doesn’t end there: we do it all the time, and model what we think is there, rather than what actually is there. Hence, I think, the number of poor models of trees out there. Ask any young child to paint a tree, and you will be surprised to see omething which is not a variant on a theme of brown stick with a green blob, yet trees rarely have a brown bark, and the foliage is anything but a single colour blob. Clichés abound on layouts: “clutter” is added to improve the “atmosphere”, and we see lengths of rail (in anticipation or consequence of relaying work) left in yard areas where railwaymen on th night shift would trip over them. The result is inauthentic and, well, cluttered.
It is possible to train oneself to become aware of these processes, and to counter the negative stereotypes which can arise, but it isn’t easy: in fact it can be very difficult. This is one of the first things that art students have to learn: how to un-learn their preconceptions. When it comes to our hobby, I am afraid that lazy acceptance of the norm (well, it is a hobby and therefore supposed to be relaxing) is the norm, but for those who can be bothered to overcome this hurdle, the world is a much more interesting place!
I began with a quote, and will end with another fom the same song:
“Open up your eyes, now.”