Optical Illusions and the Human Brain

Optical illusions are everywhere and sometimes we don’t even know it. They reveal the way in which your eyes change  images before allowing you to actually see it. In a way, it shows how our brain chooses what you should and shouldn’t see. A contributor named Kirk Zamieroski stated that “When you look at something, what you’re really seeing is the light that bounced off of it and entered your eye, which converts the light into electrical impulses that your brain can turn into an image you can use.”  When presented with optical illusions, our brain cannot focus and see everything at once. So in order to give a clear image it in a way takes “short cuts” which allows us to concentrate on what is of more importance. Optical illusions fool our brain because our brain will always take these so called short cuts. Optical illusions can trick our brain in many ways. From colors to even motion. For example, when presented with the same color multiple times but maybe different colored backgrounds, our brain tells us that those colors are not the same but in reality they are. The only difference is it’s background.

Aaron Lee Cecala from the University of Rochester stated that “Optical illusions can use color, light and patterns to create images that can be deceptive or misleading to our brain.” Our mind works in many ways in order to make sense of these illusions. When our eyes come to contact with an illusion, they send the gathered information to the brain which creates a perception that does not match the image of the optical illusion. What we call optical illusions, occur when the human brain interprets what we see into something else in order for it to make sense to us, which plays a trick on our brain and makes us see things that may not even be real.

Optical illusions are not new to us, they’ve been around for quite a while. In the 5th century around 450 B.C, a Greek philosopher and dramatist named Epicharmus believed that “our senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching) were not paying enough attention and were messing up. His exact words were ‘The mind sees and the mind hears. The rest is blind and deaf.’” But Aristotle, another Greek philosopher believed that he was both wrong and right. Aristotle believed that “our senses can be easily fooled” therefore we shouldn’t trust them completely. Another Greek Plato, said that “our five senses need our mind to help interpret what they see.” (Google sites, 2016). Which in other words means that both our eyes and mind need to work together in order for us to see the bigger picture and make sense of these illusions.

David Pegg stated on a article on Bizarre that “although our mind is constantly trying to make sense of the world around us it can sometimes get a little out of control and make us start to see things… literally”(Pegg, 2017). Meaning that sometimes our mind makes up things that aren’t real or actually happening in order for those things to make sense to us. We might think that we are seeing something but in reality it is just our mind making those things up. Optical Illusions play tricks on our brain. When looking at some optical illusions, sometimes we think the image is moving, changing colors or even multiplying. Some people refer to this as the moiré effect. Which is “a visual perception that occurs when viewing a set of lines or dots that is superimposed to another set of lines or dots, where the sets differ in relative size, angle, or spacing.” Our eyes “detect” light but our brain is what does the seeing, and is very slow when it comes to optical illusions. Because it does not interpret what is actually shown, it tries to simplify it down for us because we are not so smart when it comes to things like this. Which creates confusion when trying to realize what is actually happening and what is not.

Erin Kelly stated on an “ati” article that “when it comes to deciphering optical illusions, what’s actually happening is the brain trying to predict the future, and when you take into account the slight delay (one tenth of a second) the picture your brain conjures up is not always reliable.” These feats of optical and neurological trickery are truly mind bending (Kelly, 2014). Some optical illusions or “brain teasing visuals” can be examples of peripheral drift illusions which are “a perception of  movement in a static image.”