Spotting continuity errors can be both one of the most fun and one of the most annoying parts of the film-watching experience. Sometimes, odd mistakes and slip-ups are amusing and add an extra wrinkle to the appreciation of the film's craftsmanship (Black Dynamite, HU DVD 8479, is based almost entirely around these sort of mistakes). But finding too many noticeable errors can potentially ruin an otherwise great movie. It's understandable if some people don't want to know what their favorite films got wrong.
As it turns out, our brain doesn't want us to find that out either. Last week, UC Berkeley released a fascinating study on our perception of visual change and continuity fields. Essentially, human brains are wired to smooth over discontinuous images and stimuli, allowing us to perceive that objects are changing. If a person smiles, for instance, you understand that their face has simply moved and was not instantly replaced.
This has an unusual side effect when we watch movies. Our brain automatically smooths over small changes between takes and scenes, so long as the image appears largely similar, we won't call foul. We've let our brains tune us out of seemingly huge goofs, like Julia Roberts eating a pancake in Pretty Woman (above). Way to let us down, lizard brain!