It’s often said “seeing is believing,” and if there’s any truth to that age-old sentiment, we tend to believe what our own eyes tell us. However, when it comes to optical illusions, what we see is not always what is. Then it becomes a matter of understanding the complexities of sight… something we here at Matossian Eye Associates know a thing or two about.
Vision is indeed a complex process that encompasses our eyes sending raw information for our brain to interpret. This system of sight, as we like to call it, takes many short cuts and performs “edits” to images before we’re even made aware of them. Into this scenario come optical illusions, which take advantage of these shortcuts to use them in order to pull the wool over our brains (in a manner of speaking).
Many different types of optical illusions exist. Let’s talk about 3 of the most common:
Gestalt Organization – This is based on the data shared by Gestalt psychologists who believe that the brain has a way of taking incoming visual information and organizing it into a “meaningful whole;” an example of this type of illusion is the Kanizsa Star, wherein the human brain organizes the individual elements and sees a white star floating in the middle (though no star exists).
Depth Perception Illusion – Our brains are accustomed to perceiving a three-dimensional world in which images higher in the visual field are farther away (and therefore larger). The Müller-Lyer Illusion is one of the most famous of the Depth Perception illusions in which two parallel lines placed over converging lines on a two-dimensional plane provide a sense of depth; this leads to the appearance of the higher red line being larger (though the sizes of the two red lines are the same).
Figure-Ground Illusion – Most people aren’t aware of the fact that we don’t see everything at once when we look at the world in front of us – this would completely overwhelm the senses. As such, we tend to focus on a primary object known as “the figure,” with everything else around it becoming “the ground.” A Figure-Ground illusion makes it unclear to our brains what is “figure” and what is “ground,” forcing our minds to switch back and forth to try and make sense of it. The most famous of these is the Rubin Vase, in which people either see two faces in black or a vase in white.
While they’re not famous magicians or world-renowned illusionists headlining Las Vegas shows, the eye care experts at Matossian Eye Associates understand that optical illusions have been “a thing” long before we knew what made them work. And while eye doctor advances in neuroscience have defined the visual processes that trick our brains, it’s fun to let ourselves be fooled every now and then.
Even a Matossian eye doctor would agree.