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article imageIs this tabby cat walking upstairs or downstairs? [Photo]

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 9, 2015 in Odd News
The image shows a tabby on a flight of stairs. Is the cat going upstairs or downstairs? First posted to 9gag.com, the image has sparked a debate splitting viewers into two camps, and inspired multiple YouTube attempts to find a definitive solution.
Some viewers are convinced that the cat is going up the stairs, while others are equally convinced that it is going down.
Those arguing that the cat is going down the stairs tend to focus on a set of cues in the foreground reinforcing that impression -- such as the edge of the stairs which has an overlay suggesting it is being viewed from the front. But those who say the cat is going up the stairs point to the background, saying that the far end of the flight of stairs -- especially the angle that the end of the walls subtends with the top of the flight of stairs -- appears to represent a descent to ground floor rather than a staircase landing.
In other words, viewers who focus on the relatively dark foreground tend to think the cat is going downstairs, while viewers who focus on the relatively bright background tend to see the cat as going upstairs.
A YouTuber, Jorge Rodriguez, who says the cat is going upstairs, argues, "At the bottom of the staircase appears to be a floor."
Indra Rahmadhani argues on Facebook: "[The cat is going] Down. Why not Up? Look at the stairway. What kind of architect who design the stairs which can make pple (sic) stumble. It must be downside. Trust me, I'm an engineer."
An architect posts what he considers the final solution of the riddle to 9gag.com, arguing that the front edge of the steps shows the cat is going downstairs.
One person argued that the upright position of the cat's tail proves it is going down. He argued that "when cats go down the stairs, they raise their tail to maintain balance" but when they "go up, the tails remain down 'cause balance isn't an issue."
However, it appears that because the image was apparently designed by an artist with conflicting cognitive cues, it could be argued that it is inherently uncertain whether the cat is going up or down.
What the artist did overall was to divide the picture into two parts. The bright background was designed to reinforce the impression that the cat is going up and the relatively dark foreground was designed to reinforce the impression that the cat is going down.
Much like the riddle of the blue-black or white-gold dress what the viewer sees depends on which part of the image he or she focuses on while struggling to interpret the image. Consequently, best way to decide whether the cat should be considered as going up or down is to keep in mind that the image is not necessarily designed to yield an absolutely truthful answer to the question whether the cat is going up or down. As said earlier, the image is an artist's contrived illusion and as such one could argue that it is intrinsically uncertain whether the cat is going up or down.
What this means is that each observer is free to contrive a reasonable way to resolve the question whether the cat is going up or down.
Is the cat going up or down?
Is the cat going up or down?
9gag.cm
Is the tabby cat going up or down? An approach
This writer chooses to resolve the question by contriving a procedure in which we try to decide which of the two sets of perceptive and cognitive cues contributing to the conflicting impressions is the more significant or preponderant in the context.
That is, the writer recommends that we adopt a procedure in which we attach relative weights to the opposing sets of perspective tricks and cognitive cues to decide which is the more significant or compelling to guide us in deciding whether the cat is going up or down.
To that end, the question were are seeking an answer to is: Are the foreground cues which give the impression that the cat is going down more compelling than the background cues which give the impression that the cat is going up?
The writer suggests a scheme for attaching relative weights and comes to an independent conclusion. The reader is free to invent his own internally self-consistent approach to the problem.
In my scheme, I attach greater weight to the artist’s perspective or depth cues rather than to biological, architectural or nominal engineering design cues.
In the context of my adopted scheme, the argument that the cat is going down the stairs because its tail is upright becomes irrelevant and superfluous. It seems more reasonable to look at the image in the way an artist would look at it rather than in the way a biologist would look at it because we presume, reasonably, that creator is an artist creating a work of optical illusion art and not a biologist illustrating the principles of feline reflexes.
One can conceive of a competent artist who is ignorant of the rule that cats keep an upright tail when descending a flight of stairs. But one cannot imagine a competent artist who is unaware of the basic rules or tricks for creating perspective cues on a 2D plane.
Similarly, the most significant of the foreground cues giving the impression that the cat is going down are architectural design cues -- the front edge of the stairs – and not artists' perspective or depth cues.
When we consider the fact that artists, unlike architects, seek primarily to simulate the appearance and optics of 3D physical reality by manipulating perspective cues on 2D surface, "nominal architectural cues" must be assigned less weight in our assessment of the dynamics of the cat.
Use of the expression "nominal architectural cues" was meant to impress on the reader that an architectural designer of a flight of stairs could decide, arbitrarily, to flout the design rule of the edge without creating a compelling reason to revise the 3-dimensional order of physical reality that artists struggle to portray on 2D surfaces through an array of perspective cues.
When one compares the bright background and the dark foreground, we find that the artist executes his most significant perspective cues (the angle between the end of the walls and the top of the flight of stairs, for instance) in the background of the image rather than in the foreground. Thus, wittingly or unwittingly, he invests the background of his artwork with greater weight of cues consistent with the compelling 3D optics of physical reality that are vital to judging whether the cat is really going up or down the stairs.
Thus, when we assess the image like an artist manipulating perspective on a 2D plane rather than like an architect drawing an architectural plan of a house, we are forced to conclude that the background of the image is the representation of its physical reality, and that the looming proximity of the foreground has been deliberately loaded with architectural design cues to distract the artless viewer of the image from the physical reality represented through artistic perspective in the background.
In other words, the architectural design of edge of the stairs and related cues in the foreground were set up to distract the attention of the viewer from the perspective cues enacted in the background which establish that the far end of the flight of stairs represents a descent to the ground level and not an ascent to a staircase landing.
Of course, the foregoing is the writer's free and personal conjecture. The reader is free to disagree.
So, what do you think?
More about tabby, Cat, Upstairs, downstairs, Upstairs downstairs
 
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