Monday, March 11, 2013

How Do Optical Illusions Work?

No matter what age you are, everyone has experienced the mind-blowing fun or head-hurting struggle of an optical illusion. For some people, the original image magically comes to life on the page. For others, you could spend an entire lifetime staring at an image and nothing would appear. So how do optical illusions work? You’re about to find out!

Optical illusions are essentially mind games played on your brain. This can be done in three ways: 

Optical illusions can create new objects or images out of a combination of patterns and objects. For example, small images of tree branches might come together in an optical illusion to reveal many faces.

There are optical illusions that excessively stimulate the brain with an overwhelming light, tilt, or color. By positioning black lines very closely together in a spiral, for example, the white space between the lines begins to “move,” causing the picture to move. 

Finally, there are optical illusions that are cognitive illusions, in which the brain makes inferences when it views a certain object. For example, images are created to be paradoxical in nature, so it is confusing to understand whether a staircase is going up or down. 

Scientists use optical illusions to learn more about how the brain works. Studies have shown that humans understand this skill at a very young age. Because this is such a unique skill, scientists are eager to study more about this process to see if it helps us in the future.

So why does it take some people longer to process optical illusions than others? Everybody’s brain is different. Therefore the process of understanding optical illusions and making sense out of them is distinctive for individuals. Now, this does not measure intelligence by any means. Some brains can simply piece together strange images and patterns more quickly than others.

Either way, optical illusions are a fun, yet sometimes painful, way to keep your brain active!