Science and Optical Illusions

Posted on October 18, 2010  Comments (0)

illusion with color tiles on a cubeMore illusions by R Beau Lotto, lecturer in neuroscience, University College London

The middle tiles on the cube both have the same color, even though they appear very different to most of us.

The science of optical illusions

the two physically identical tiles do indeed now look very different.

Why? The information in the image strongly suggests that the dark brown tile on the top now means a poorly reflective surface under bright light, whereas the bright orange one at the side means a highly reflective surface in shadow.
… [from another illusion]
So why do they look so different? Because your brain takes the image on the retina and creates what it sees according to what the information would have meant in the brain’s past experience of interacting with the world.

In this case the angles suggest depth and perspective and the brain believes the green table is longer than it is while the red table appears squarer.

The beautiful thing about illusions is they make us realise things are never what they seem, and that our experiences of the world shape our understanding of it.

Studying illusions can teach us several things. We can learn that it is easy for our senses to be fooled. We can learn about how the brain works. We can also learn how to take into account how our brain works to try and adjust our opinions (to be careful we are not just interpreting things incorrectly). It is amazing to see some of the wild guidance our brains give us. Normally they do a fantastic job of guiding us through our day but they have weaknesses that can lead us to mistaken conclusions.

Related: Albert Einstein, Marylin Monroe Hybrid ImageWhy Does the Moon Appear Larger on the Horizon?Illusions, Optical and OtherSeeing Patterns Where None Exists

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