I is for Illusion

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Whether it is a mirage or the voices in your head, all of us have experienced some sort of illusion. Illusions are not just limited to optical tricks. Some are matters of great enjoyment. Others are frightening. Which sort of illusion is your favorite?

Floating Illusion

The most well understood is the optical illusion. You know what you are looking at, but you are seeing something entirely different. Why does it work?

Immediate

The eye has cataloged in your brain everything it saw. It frames what it sees in comparison to what you already know. When you see certain things, you expect them to result in something in particular or something congruent with what you know.

When you see lines in a particular order, you expect to see the bordered image as stagnant. When lines are curved, the eye sees motion. Fractal optical illusions appear to be in motion because of the proximity and shape of the lines and/or colors are not congruent with what the mind believes should exist.

Fractal Optical Illusion
From youngeagerminds.com

Intensity

Facial Optical Illusion

Other pictures we see bring our attention to the part of the image which appeals most to us. These are the most classic of optical illusions. The two faces versus the vase is one of the most easily replicated visual illusions. Others are much more complex and, based on the viewers’ past experiences, show more detailed images in the fore versus the background.

Imaginary

Most tactile illusions are completely imaginary. When limbs (or teeth) are removed, amputees report feeling pain in the missing limb. When you cross your fingers and run them over the bridge of your nose, you are imagining the second nose you think you feel with your fingers.

Skull Shop Optical Illusion

The thermal grill illusion best explains how these happen. A grill of metal rods alternating hot and cold, 104°F and 68°F (40°C and 20°C), is presented. When touched, it appears to be hot enough to burn, but only if the person touches both a hot and cold rod.

If only hot is touched, only warmth is felt. Likewise, if only a cold rod is touched, only coolness is felt. The illusion occurs when the conflicting signals are sent to the brain resulting in the misconception. The contrast of the warmth and coolness tricks the brain into perceiving far higher temperature. In the mind, the two cannot coexist.

Inaccuracy

Auditory illusions are tricks between the ear and the brain. The Shepard’s tone is common in sound effects, tricking the brain into hearing an unending fall or an unfathomable ascent. It is called the sonic barber’s pole.

A well-known entertaining auditory illusion is ventriloquism. By engaging the brain in the movement of the dummy’s mouth, the mind transfers the sound of the ventriloquist’s voice to the dummy. The artist’s true ability is producing intelligible words without noticeably moving the mouth, which would break the auditory illusion by drawing the eye to the correct mouth.

Ill

Some illusions are carried by illness. Those who have lost use of certain taste buds can get the illusion of the taste of their favorite foods by similar textures in the mouth touching the tongue. The nose can be tricked into many different smells by the mention of the names and olfactory stimulation. Let someone mention sulfur and rotten eggs (or equally significant smell) just before you take a deep breath.

Scintillating Scotomas

Migraine sufferers and fatigued people experience optical illusions. These hallucinations are chemical derivatives of pain and the body’s self-preservative instinct. When your head throbs, you will see scintillating scotomas. The spots or zigzag images dance or swirl in a outward-spiraling, counterclockwise motion.

When you are very tired, you will see gremlins. These are not the furry monsters of movies, but illusory shadows and flashes of light your mind creates to focus your attention to keep you awake.

Hallucinations are symptoms of some mental illnesses. They range from simple fantasy characters to elaborate worlds seen and/or heard only by the patient.

Illogical

What all illusions have in common is they are illogical. They are tricks which end in something other than what the mind knows should exist. The mind has the power to overcome the illusion, but sometimes, it is just outright fun to be fooled.

Dice Optical Illusion

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What are some of your favorite illusions? Have you ever seen a ventriloquist perform? Feel free to leave links to your favorite optical illusions.


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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45 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  April 10, 2012

    Great post. I can tell lots of thought went into this.

    Have a look at my blog if you’ve the time. I write kids’ books with two new ones about to be published.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      You need to enter your website in order for me to visit you. Email me about your books so we can talk about them.

      Reply
  2. I love illusions. My favorites are probably a bunch of the MC Escher drawings, like falling water.
    el Guapo recently posted..Program Notes and TrifextraMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      Descending stairs is probably his most famous, but I love all of his tessellations.

      Reply
  3. I love optical illusions, last year for Christmas I got my kids a big book of them. It’s fun to flip through, and my 10-year-old son has done a decent job at trying to draw a few.

    I like the floating picture, it’s cool what a little bit of shadow in the right place can do to trick our brains.
    Rick Daley recently posted..A-Z Challenge: Iron ManMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      I need to get some more books of them. My autistic children love them especially. My 7yo tries to figure out why they work. She is the ultimate 3-D queen.

      Reply
  4. I’m learning something new everyday by reading your posts….thanks! Great writing.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      Glad to see you today, Carolina! Loving your A to Z. Slide by the registration so you can leave your comment luv link to your posts when you drop by!

      Reply
  5. Fantastic examples, Red! It’s uncanny that no matter how intelligent one may be, the human brain still has the capacity to be fooled. I haven’t decided whether that’s a weakness or a boon yet, but I enjoy having my brain teased. 🙂
    George recently posted..Sight UnseenMy Profile

    Reply
  6. You should do A to Z every month…

    Love the squirming picture. Focus on one spot, and it stops moving while the rest move. Change your focus and it starts all over again.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      I have had that one a long time. My children love it. …every month??? I am the one who despises writing prompts! Did you vote? I am going to pull it down a little late, due to…well, that is revealed in the next post.

      Reply
      • I voted. I just like the diversity of your posts in the atoz…

        Reply
        • Red

           /  April 10, 2012

          That is so odd to me…I am blogging a theme. The mother of all series with 26 stinking posts!! You know by now, my intrigue is social psychology. All of the posts have something to do with SP.

          It is something which I could do (with the exception of a few letters) for around two years. Just this one run through the alphabet has enough information, I could only write about the things in these posts and not run out of material before the end of next year!

          Reply
  7. I really like this ‘I’ for Illusion posting Red and there are so many of these that are very interesting. Ages ago I had a similar posting on WLS and the quality of those illusions just never fail to add fascination.

    Just picturing the two different scenes, as in the one that you have offered ‘Face Optic’, which just shows the differences as the eye tries to focus on the two images.

    As with the Magician and the many optical illusions that are created on stage making it so exciting to watch 🙂

    Have you seen those drawings that are chalked or painted onto the sidewalks? Those illusions are truly fangtastic, well I certainly enjoy looking at them anyway 🙂

    A great posting Red 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      I toyed with adding one of my favorite sidewalk scrivers. It is one which is a cutaway of an earthquake. I have another favorite which is a different type. It is a view through the ceiling of people at a cocktail party who appear to be below the surface of a swimming pool. Optical illusions are fun. 😉

      Reply
      • Yes they really are a lot of fun and so exquisitely crafted by the artists 🙂 Ian sent me some in an e mail a while ago and they were excellent, I will have to have a look on the Internet and find some, maybe add a few to an extra page or something? 🙂

        Have a very nice rest of evening and a deliciously enchanting Wednesday too 🙂

        Androgoth XXx

        Reply
  8. I think those picture illusion games are really fun. I also enjoy looking up at clouds and seeing what kinds of animate objects I can pick out. Creative energy spurs on a lot of illusions, where balance keeps them in check. Nice post, Red. This was fun:)
    M. J. Joachim recently posted..Irish LaceMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      Glad you liked it. I like to have a little fun around here 😉

      Reply
  9. Loved the fractal optical illusions Red. They really look like they’re moving!

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      That particular one is my children’s favorite. #8 calls it “the worms”. It takes me a while to train my brain to make it stop moving. Trying to edit around that is really distracting!

      Reply
  10. I like fractals and static illusions similar to the dice optical illusion. Trying to defeat optical illusions is an interest of mine. Great post Red “:)
    Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..Political Sanctions: Punishment for Voting DemocraticallyMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 10, 2012

      Okay, Mr. Distractions. You would have loved trying to edit around the fractal illusion in this post. Talk about a time suck! 😉

      Reply

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