Practicing to deceive

“People often think visual illusions are only curiosities. That’s a misconception,” says Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, professor of neuroscience at the University of California at San Diego.

Optical illusion

“It’s important to study illusions because they teach us how the visual system works, what its ground rules are.” Normally we do not experience illusions in our everyday, three-dimensional world, which offers multiple cues to help our brains interpret images. When these cues are selectively reduced in a two-dimensional world, the brain can be fooled.

Illusion 2 shows how the brain is primed to construct outlines from incomplete data. A useful capability, says Ramachandran, if you ever need to recognize a tiger lurking in tall grass.


After Image Illusion

In illusion 4, Ramachandran says, we are forced to respond exclusively to the cue of shading. Our brains, accustomed to light from the sun overhead, assume objects are lit from above. Rotate the diagram. The brain keeps to its assumption and creates a new perception of the scene.

Shading Illusion


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