Who doesn’t love a good optical illusion? When you stare at something and suddenly it shifts into an entirely new picture without physically changing, it’s pretty surreal. It’s not a sign that your trusty Air Optix lenses or glasses aren’t working. It’s all just your brain perceiving the image in a new way. All day long, our brain and our eyes work together to help us understand what’s around us. Optical illusions are designed to trip up this relationship, making us think we see something that’s not really there, or in a new way. Our brain thinks we’re seeing something that’s not actually reality. So, how do these nifty optical illusions work? Keep reading for the answer.
Literal Optical Illusions
There are three main different types of optical illusions, and they each work slightly differently. They’re known as literal illusions, physiological illusions, and cognitive illusions. A literal illusion is a picture or image that shows something different than what’s actually there. This drawing of an elephant has confused many people over the years. All that you have to do is count its legs…
Did you try? How many did you get? Or did you give up from frustration and are looking for the answer from us? The way this optical illusion works may surprise you. The reason this picture is such a stumper is that the artist actually only drew one full leg through to the foot. For the other three, the illustrator only drew the base of the leg, leaving out the feet. The artist then drew the feet in between each leg to complete the trick.
We’ve drawn arrows to show the back leg, fully drawn, and then three others pointing up where the other 3 should be, except the feet were never completed. Pretty clever, right?
Physiological Optical Illusions
Physiological optical illusions typically work by employing patterns, often involving color, brightness, and tilt that tricks our brain into seeing varying images. This can even include images that we see as moving but, of course, are actually stationary. The belief is that they contain so much stimuli that our brains essentially don’t know how to process it altogether, which leads us to seeing stuff that isn’t actually there.
The above image uses a repeating color and pattern in such a way that our brains actually see it as moving! You may have to look at it for a few seconds before you begin to see it twirling, but give it time and we’re sure you will! It’s pretty crazy.
Cognitive Optical Illusions
Cognitive optical illusions play with our mind by taking principles we understand to be true, and presenting them in a way that, simply put, can’t be. An example of this is the following:
Information we know about buildings and lines simply can’t be processed when looking at images like this, which confuse our minds about their beginning and ends. After a few minutes of staring, you may turn away frustrated and confused, but remember: it’s all trickery of an artist taking truths about the way our brains work and simply making a few alterations in an image to mess with them. It’s all in good fun, so no harm, no foul.
Now, our brains can also experience unintended optical illusions. For instance, if a person stares at something for a long time and then closes their eyes, they’ll see the outline of the image in its complementary color. For instance, if it was originally red, it will appear green in the mind. This isn’t due to any trickery on another persons’ part but just simply the way our eyes and minds make sense of the world around us.