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The Jewel Game

The Jewel Game

Gems, Fascination, and the Neuroscience of Visual Attention

(p.167) 12 The Jewel Game
Ribbon of Darkness
Barbara Maria Stafford
University of Chicago Press

Historically, ornamental gems have not only decoratively diverted humans from the more serious tasks at hand, they served as riveting artifacts calculated to aid mental concentration. Extravagantly shaped and variegated minerals thus also provided a training ground for the development of high-level human selective attention. Using Rudyard Kipling's memory-challenging "Jewel Game"--a key episode in the British author's Great Trunk Road novel, Kim [1902]--as a springboard, this essay reflects on contemporary neuroscience’s potential to illuminate the distracting, as well as the coherencing, power of shiny colored objects. Talismans, amulets, crystals, charms “fascinate” that is, they possess illusionizing optical properties to focus the eye and hypnotize the mind without words.

Keywords:   Amulets, Crystals, Fascination, Gems, Jewel-Game, Memory-Training, Optical Illusions, Rudyard Kipling, Selective Attention, Talismans

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