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Can You See This? The Wonder of Optical Illusions

Updated on July 29, 2018
Sparrowlet profile image

Katharine has been writing essays and articles since her school years and enjoys finding challenging topics to write about and explain.

Two Faces or a Vase?

What Causes Optical Illusions?

We all know how amusing a good optical illusion can be. Somehow, it's fun to trick our brains! And that's just what it is! An optical illusion occurs when the true elements of an image are misinterpreted by the brain, and the viewer sees something different than what is actually in the image.

There are various reasons why this happens, but they fall into two general categories.

1) Some are physiological phenomena, having to do with the interaction of the eye and the brain. Certain combinations of motion and color can be overstimulating to the brain. The brain then tries to organize the images in a way that makes sense. In the case of an optical illusion, this effort to order its perceptions results in the brain over-riding the messages coming from the eye, which results in you thinking you see something that, in reality, is not there.

2) Others are cognitive, which have to do with pre-conceived ideas that you have which have "trained" your brain to look for some things over others. The famous faces or vase optical illusion is one example. Some people immediately see the vase in the picture above, while others see only the silhouettes of two faces. The reasons why people differ in these perceptions is a mystery, but it probably has to do with a complex set of ideas and basic beliefs that you hold, which encourages the brain to "see" what is most relevant to you in these ambiguous images.

Here is a pretty good explanation of what causes optical illusions with examples:

How do optical illusions work?

Here we will look at some more optical illusions. See if each one works for you or not. Perhaps your brain can't be fooled?? Try these examples of optical illusions and see for yourself! (you may click on images 2 and 4 to make them bigger and more effective)

Cylinder Illusion

1. We'll start with a simple but tricky one. Take a look at this cylinder. Are you looking down into the cylinder, or up into it from below? Can you change how you see it? Can you change back to the first way you saw it?

public domain image
public domain image | Source

Motion Illusion

2. Here is a fascinating one. Look closely at the center of this image and keep looking at it. Don't take your eyes off the center. Soon you will feel as though the pattern is moving, but of course, it is not. (you may have to click on this one for it to work)

image by Fiestoforo
image by Fiestoforo | Source

Triangle Illusion

3. In this optical illusion, you think you see a white triangle on top of the black triangle. In reality, there is no white triangle. The way the image is set up, with the slices out of the black circles, encourages the brain to "fill in" the missing elements of a triangle, and that is what you see!

image by JrPol
image by JrPol | Source

Reverse Colors Illusion

4. For this example, you may want to click to enlarge the image. Then stare at the center of the colored hexagon below and count slowly to 20. Then look over at the black star and keep your eyes on the star. Your brain will reproduce the hexagon, but the colors will be reversed!

public domain image
public domain image | Source

Afterimage Illusions

5. This one and the next are my two favorites. They're called afterimage illusions. Stare at the four vertical dots in the center of this image and count slowly to 20. Then close your eyes and keep them closed to allow the image to develop. What do you see?

public domain image
public domain image | Source

6. Another one like it! Try to get the whole image within your view. Stare at the aqua colored blob in the center of the image. then count slowly to 20. Then close your eyes and wait a moment. Isn't that creepy?

image by Dimitri Parant
image by Dimitri Parant | Source

How Creative Are You?

This series of optical illusions tests your brain's ability to see both images within the one presented. Presumably it will measure how quickly your brain works and how creative you are. Whatever the claims for this particular optical illusions test, it's fun to give it a try.

Was your brain fooled?

So, did we fool your brain? Kind of makes you wonder about the brain's power over us, if it is capable of altering our perceptions so easily. Optical illusions serve to remind us that we are not as much in control of our thoughts and perceptions as we think we are. It's as if your brain had a mind of its own!

Click HERE for more awesome optical illusions!

© 2011 Katharine L Sparrow

Comments Appreciated

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful optical illusions and I love that a detailed explanation is given for what actually causes them.

    • RGNestle profile image


      8 years ago from Seattle

      I don't like to look at Michael Jackson, but I'm fascinated by the clarity and detail in the last OI. That was quite amazing! Is there a specific name for this kind of OI? Thanks for the cool Hub!

    • profile image

      travel the world 

      8 years ago

      Hello! your post is good.Visit my links to learn more about travel the world.Visit-

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      8 years ago from Long Island, NY

      It's amazing how the brain interprets things and provides its own perceptions. I especially got a kick out of number 7 when I closed my eyes. The face seems to glow in the darkness. Wow!

      Welcome to HubPages and congratulations on the nomination for Hubnugget.

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Loved it.

    • kasiapl profile image


      8 years ago from New Jersey , USA

      wow that is soo freaking cool :)

    • profile image

      aquatic guru 

      8 years ago

      Wow! that is so weird and cool at the same time!!

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 

      8 years ago

      Wow, this is fascinating. Great job and thanks for sharing.

    • Joyful Read profile image

      Joyful Read 

      8 years ago from Boise, ID

      Love these! Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      8 years ago from Brazil

      I have never seen those particular ones. Optical illusion were always something I enjoyed but didn't understand how they worked. It is amazing when you think how complicated the brain is and how little we understand of it.

      Interesting hub, congratulations on you hubnugget nomination. Voted up.

    • cardelean profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      I love optical illusions. It always fascinates me. Thanks for sharing these. Congrats on your nomination and welcome to Hubpages!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      8 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Congratulations on your hubnuggets nomination. Love these illusions. They are great.


    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      8 years ago from California

      Fun and interesting hub. The dot one that looked like was moving made me nauseous, but I loved it. Nice work.

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 

      8 years ago from The Lone Star State

      Interesting hub, I love optical illusions. Congrats on your Hubnugget nomination!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I enjoyed this very much! Some are familiar but others are new to me. Thanks for sharing!

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! This way to read and vote Sparrowlet: Have fun!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      8 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I don't know why or how they work, but I *love* optical long as they're on paper. Once visited a "fun house" that all the way through *appeared* to be level but wasn't. Really messed with my sense of "reality" and left me slightly disoriented for several hours. ;D


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