The Science Behind Optical Illusions!

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Optical illusions are one of the coolest things the human eye can see, legitimately. It’s safe to say we’ve all had our minds blown at one time or another by an optical illusion, but do you know what’s really going on there? In the most basic sense, optical illusions occur when a background pattern makes certain shapes and lines that appear to break, warp, bend, and snake around in strange ways. While we may not know everything about why they occur, many scientists believe they come about from a glitch in our brain that does something strange when processing two-dimensional visual images, turning them into third-dimensional perceptions.

Thanks to the internet, countless optical illusions have gone viral, bringing to question the idea of perception and subjectivity. There’s a good chance you’ve done one of those fun Facebook BuzzFeed tests that asks you what the first thing you see is when looking at an image, right? Many of us see something different right off the bat, which is pretty dang cool! Optical illusions focus on gaps between perception and reality, which is a sort of trick the brain plays.

Understanding Optical Illusions

There are many different types of optical illusions, the most common of which use color, light, and patterns to create images that can be deceptive to our brains. The brain processes this misconception in different ways, gathering information from the eye and creating a perception that may not match the real image in reality. Are you still with me? OK, good. This phenomenon takes place because our brain is working hard to rightfully interpret what we see, but it is being tricked by whatever pattern or color combo is in the image. In a nutshell, optical illusions trick our brains to think we are seeing something that may not be real.

The History of Optical Illusions

Illusions can be traced back as far as Aristotle and the ancient Greeks, which is pretty neat if you think about it. In the 19th century, scientists began studying perception and trying to understand what was happening with even the simplest of optical illusions. They discovered that illusions told us a lot about how the brain perceives shapes and patterns, which was the first time we began to understand that our eyes can most definitely play tricks on our minds. In the 20th century, we didn’t make much progress in the field of illusions, but scientists all over the world continued to work to understand where the gap between what our eyes were seeing and our brains was processing was. Thanks in large part to technology, researchers sooner realized that certain neurons in the brain’s visual cortex fired when objects were oriented in certain patterns, like when we looked at a square versus a diamond, for example. A 1960-70s art movement brought illusions into the spotlight – it was called Op-Art. Today we understand that our visual system cannot fully process everything our eyes take in, which is why our brains take shortcuts. Pretty cool, if you ask us!

To learn more about optical illusions or to schedule an appointment with your Arlington eye doctor, please do not hesitate to give First Eye Care a call today.

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