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Vision Tricks: How Do Optical Illusions Fool Our Eyes?

February 2, 2012

Explaining how optical illusions work to distort our vision and trick our eyes.

Many people often underestimate the complexity and intricacies that make up our clear vision, and the amount of work that our eyes must do simply to create a clear image in our line of sight. For instance, if you are lucky enough to have 20/20 vision, you may have found that if you tried on your friends prescription eyeglasses before, the world around you suddenly becomes distorted and misshapen, then quickly returns back to normal again once you remove the glasses.

However, this scenario is not the only cause of interesting, distorted affects from our vision. Throughout your life, you may have come across certain images, structures or illusions that have played tricks on your eyes, creating an image in front of you that simply did not appear as it should. These types of images are often known as optical illusions, or more appropriately visual illusions, and they typically involve some type of visual deception.

Because of the large arrangement of images, colors, light sources, and other different variables in the world, a wide range of misleading visual effects can often be seen in a number of different situations. However, not everyone experiences visual illusions in the same way.

To help you understand a little more about what causes these mysterious visual illusions, as well as how exactly they affect our eyes and our vision, we have put together some basic facts about optical illusions and eyesight.

What Causes Optical Illusions?

The incredibly intricate, yet fascinating design of the optical mechanisms in our eyes is one of the basic causes of optical illusions. Our eyes are constructed so that the two types of nerve cells―the cones and the rods―are distinctly placed on and around our retina. The cone cells work to detect color, while the rod cells detect low-light contrasts. Together, they convert light into neural signals which are then carried to the brain. On the edges of the retina, there are fewer cones and more rods, while the center of the retina only has cones. Therefore, seeing things from the corner of the eyes can produce deceptive images and a blurry interpretation of what is in front of us.

An excessive exposure to alternating patterns, brightness, tilt or a particular colors can also affect the perceptions from our eyes. Repeated exposure to a certain color or a certain amount of brightness can also tire our eyes, which causes us to perceive things differently. In turn, the tiring of our eyes following an excessive exposure to a certain kind of visual image can cause optical illusions.

How Do Optical Illusions Work?

Optical illusions often occur due to mistaken judgments or errors in vision. For instance, a bright object often appears larger than a dark object of the same dimensions. Or, when objects of contrasting colors are placed in close vicinity, it plays tricks of movement and color definition on the eyes.

For example, staring at the image below should create a “waving” effect on your eyes, caused by the black and white outlines of the brown objects. This causes your brain to think that the ovals in the image are creating a wave-like movement.

Did your eyes respond the optical illusions in the pictures above? Leave us a comment below letting us know.


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