Is Seeing Really Believing?


Have you ever seen a moving object that is actually still or a curved line that is straight? There are many different optical illusions that will boggle your mind! Many of these optical illusions use depth perception, which is how we see things in 3D, shadows, or different color schemes. You may see illusions more than you think. Illusions can be in pictures or pieces of art.

Optical illusions are pretty simple, it’s just the way your brain perceives the image. In your eyes you have photosensors containing cones and rods. These are what allow you to see light and colors. As you are looking at the optical illusion, your eyes are working hard to figure out the image. The information goes into your brain, where it tries to decode the picture. Since there is so much information going to your brain, this causes our brains to take “shortcuts” to accomplish its goal.

In art, optical illusions are used all the time. In many professional artwork, you can see artists use depth perception. This means that you are able to see the world in three-dimensions and the distance of an object. For example, an illusion called the Ponzo Illusion exercises this idea. This illusion is called vertical-horizontal illusion because it has two lines that are exactly the same, and two straight lines going vertically and getting smaller at the horizon. How this illusion works is by using monocular cues, which means being able to see depth through one eye. How it uses depth perception is by making the vertical lines getting smaller at the top of the picture. Our brain then takes shortcuts to the conclusion that the two lines are getting smaller. This tricks our mind for seeing the lower line being shorter than the higher one. 

Another way an optical illusion can work is to use different colors. These colors trick your mind for seeing something else than what is really there. As we look, our eyes are trying to decode what the image is really showing. The information your eyes are taking in is then brought to your brain. For example, one optical illusion, called the Animated Color Illusion uses this method. It uses three shades of grey. In this illusion, you have a grey colored bar in the middle of the picture. On either side of this bar, there are a few different shades: black, grey, and white. This tricks our mind to believing one side is a brighter shade than the other. What is taking place is the background color is contrasting the color of the bar, and this is what is making us see different colors. On the left side of the picture, it is black, where on the right it is white, which confuses our brain to see the bar as different colors.

Another optical illusion that tricks your mind with colors is called the Bezold effect. This illusion was named after Wilhelm Von Bezold, a German professor of meteorology. He used one color to make other colors seem different. This makes the colors seem to be slightly darker or slightly lighter; some can be more saturated or more desaturated. When looking at the picture, it will seem to change the way it looks depending on the colors that are around it. This illusion is to trick our mind and to see the colors on the picture and combining them because there is so much information from all the small squares.

When you are looking at different optical illusions, your brain is working very hard to figure out what the information is. The information goes through your eyes and travels to your brain. Some illusions use the concepts of depth perception, color schemes, and shadows. These illusions include the Ponzo Illusion, Bezold Effect, and the Animated Color Illusion. So, the next time you are looking at optical illusions, keep these ideas in mind to understand what you’re seeing!