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Psychology
Mr.Ring
21September,2015
HowDoOpticalIllusionsWork?

Brainsdoalotofthingsforthehumanbody.Translatelightintoimages,process
soundsintowordsandconversations,helppeoplewalkandtalkandfunctiononaday
todaybasis.Thelistoftasksthatbrainshaveininfiniteandincrediblyextended.Similar
tothephraseNooneisperfect,nobrainisperfect.Thebrain,overthespanofa
lifetime,learnswaystomakeitsjobeasierandcutdowntheamountoftimespenton
certaintasks.Formostsituations,thisisagreatconvenience.Sometimes,inspiteofall
thesubstantialthingsbrainscando,theymaygettricked.Thisiscalledanoptical
illusion.Theactualdefinitionforopticalillusionisanexperienceofseemingtosee
somethingthatdoesnotexistorthatisotherthanitappears.Basicallywhatthe
definitionsaysisthatwhatyouseeisnotalwayswhatyouget.Sometimes,whilethe
brainistakingshortcutstomakedaytodaylifeeasier,incertainsituations,itwilljump
tothefirstpossibleandmostprobableoutcome,eventhoughitmaynotalwaysbe
correct.
Therearemanydifferenttypesofopticalillusions.OnetypebeingthePeripheral
DriftIllusion.Thisisanillusionwhereasubjectlooksatonepoint.Inthesubject's
peripheralvisionthereisanimage,usuallyacircle.Ifthesubjectistrulyfocusedona
fixedpointthatisnotthecircle,thenthecirclewillbegintorotate.However,whenthe
subjectturnsattentiontothemovingcircle,itwillceasemovement.Oncethesubject
againlooksawayfromthecircle,itwillcontinueitspreviousmomentum.Thisspecific
illusionwasexplainedbyAndrewHerbertandJocelynFaubertin1999bystatingthat
thereasonthisillusionworksisbecauseofbothblinkingandeyemovementandthen
alsothedifferentspansoftimethatareinvolvedwithluminance.Oneofthemost
famousperipheraldriftillusioniscalledRotatingSnakesbyKitaokaAkiyoshi.This
illusionworksbecauseofboththewaythatthehumaneyeperceivescolorsinapattern
oflighttodarkandalsoeyemovementingeneral.Thecolorsequenceineach"snake"

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oftheillusion,willtrickthemotionsensitiveneuronsinthehumanbrainintoresponding
inawaythatitcouldtoactualphysicalmotion.Thepatternofcolorsthatalwaysmakes
ourbrainseemovementgoeswhitetolightgraytoblacktodarkgrayandstartsover
again.Bysimulatingthisinacirclepatternifoureyesarenotcompletelyfocusedinthe
middleofthecircle,thenthecirclebecomespartofourperipheralvision,thenitgives
theappearancethatthecirclesarebeginningtomovelikesnakes.
AnotherillusioniscalledAfterimage.Thisisatypeofillusionwearasubjectwill
lookataspecificimage,ideallyeithernotcompletedorcoloredincorrectlyorsomething
tothateffect.Eitherinthemiddleorasawhole.Afterstaringattheimagefora
predeterminedamountoftime,thesubjectwilllookawayfromtheimagepreferablytoa
wallandwillseetheimageinit'scompleteform.Thistypeofallusionhappenssolely
basedonthewaysthateyestakeinlight.TheIwilladjusttothelightlevelandthecolor
ofthelightcomingfromtheimage.Afterlookingawayfromtheimage,Thelightisstill
capturedintheretinabutduetofatigueintheprocess,theimagewillappearinitsfull
glory.Thisillusionisdoneinmanydifferentwayswithmanydifferentthings.Many
beingpicturesofcelebritieswholooktobeinblackandwhiteandsomewhatfaded
over.Andwhenlookingawaytheeyeisabletoseetheimageinitsentirety.Asif
lookingatthecompletedpicture.
ThenextillusionisAmbiguousIllusions.Thisisquiteapopularformofoptical
illusion.Itisaflatimageusuallyblackandwhite,anditisputinfrontofthesubject.The
subjectseesoneimage.Afterstaringatthepictureforcertainamountoftimethe
subjectmayseeadifferentimageentirely.Thisisagoodexampleofabraintaking
shortcuts.Thebrainwillseeanimageandthefirstresponsewillbetoseesomething
thatisperhapsmorerelatedtothem.Afterseeingbothimagesthebrainwillflip
backandforthorseebothsimultaneously.Inthefamousrabbitorduckambiguous
illusion,ifsomeoneweretosay,Whatbirddoyouseeinthisimage?thebrainwill
mostlikelyseetheimageoftheduckfirst.Thisisbecauseourbrainknowstolookfora
bird.Ifsomeoneweretosay,Whatlittlewhitefurrycreaturedoyousee?thenthe
brainwouldtendtoleanmoretowardseeingtherabbitfirst.Sothistypeofallusioncan

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bealtereddependingoniftheconductoroftheexperimentorsomeonewhoisalready
seenthespecificillusionbeforecommentsonsomethingthatleadsourbraintooneof
thepictures.
Thelasttypeofillusionisarguablythemostfamoustypeofopticalillusion,which
isImpossibleImages.Thisisatypeoftheillusionwhereanartistwillmakeanimage,
butiftheimageweretobetransportedoffofthepieceofpaperandintoreallifeitwould
notbesomethingthatcouldevenbeclosetobeingapossiblefigureorobject.Theway
thesolutionworksalldependsonthepersondrawinganddesigningit.Onecould
changetheshadingofanimagetomakeitlookthreedimensionaloraddmorethan
fourlegstoanelephant.Thisillusioncanbeespeciallyfrustratingforthehumanbrain
becausethebrainlikestomakesenseofeverything.It'squitehardtomakesenseof
somethingthatisimpossible.Butthatiswhattheillusionissupposedtodosoevenif
somebodyweretostareattheimageforhoursuponhoursitwillneverchange.Itwill
alwaysstayimpossibleandfrustrating.Oneofthemostpopularillusionsinthisformis
PenroseTriangle.ItwascreatedbySwedishartistOscarReuterswrdinthelate
1950's.Aninterestingthingaboutthisparticularopticalillusionissomeonenamed
MatthewHamaker'stransformeditintoa3Dstatueintheyear2004.Now,obviously
thisimageisimpossibletocreateinreallife.ButthisstatuteonlylookslikePenrose
Trianglefromonespecificpointorangle.Ifapersontriedtoapproachthestatuefrom
anyotherdirectionanditwilllooklikeacurlytriangledancing.
Opticalillusionsareincrediblethings.Theytrickthehumanbrainintoseeing
thingsthatarenotreallythere.Whilestudyingopticalillusionsonealsolearnshow
incrediblethehumanbrainis.Theshortcutsitisabletotaketokeepthebodyaliveand
functioningonadaytodaybasisisincredibleanditjustreaffirmsthebeliefthatnoone
isperfectwhenthehumanbrain,aperson'sbestasset,alterswhatitsees,and
sometimescannotevenfixtheproblemthattheyknowisthere.Whileopticalallusions
canbefunthingstostudy,theycangetquitefrustratingiftakentooseriously.People
justneedtoenjoyandmarvelinallthathumanscanyoucreate.Eventhingsthatwe
ourselvesandourbrainscannotcomprehend.

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WorkCited
Eustis,David.
TheHowandWhyofOpticalIllusions
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Jacobs,NathanS."HowOpticalIllusionsTrickYourBrainNathanS.Jacobs."
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"TheScienceofOpticalIllusions."
TheScienceofOpticalIllusions
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Web.19Sept.2015.

"WhatOpticalIllusionsShowUsAboutVisualPerception."
TheBrainFromTopTo
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.N.p.,n.d.Web.19Sept.2015.

Zamieroski,Kirk."HowDoOpticalIllusionsWork?"
InsideScience
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