Optical illusions have been messing with our heads for hundreds of years. These mind-melting images use colors, lines, shapes and the positioning of objects to fool our minds into thinking things are there when they are not, images are moving when they are in fact static, and things are bigger or smaller than they actually are. Have those migraine pills handy as we show you twenty brain-melting illusions that will seriously mess around with your mind!
Red And Black
While it may appear that the red lines on the left are considerably lighter than the ones on the right, this is not actually the case. They are in fact exactly the same color. This is called the ‘Bezold effect’, named after the 19th Century German meteorologist, Wilhelm von Bezold. Bezold discovered that placing two vastly different colors next to one another and then laying lines of a third color over them creates the illusion of color contrast. It’s certainly a mind-melter!
The Impossible Trident
This brain-frying illusion goes by many names – the impossible trident, the blivet, the devil’s tuning fork and the poiuyt (that last one came from humor magazine, Mad). First noticed in an American aviation magazine in the 1960s, this arresting illusion gives off the impression of a three-pronged object that somehow morphs into a two-pronged object as you look at the top of it.
The Bristol Cafe Wall Illlusion
First observed by the late psychologist, Professor Richard Gregory, the ‘Cafe Wall Illusion’ was spotted on the outside wall of a cafe in Bristol, England. Light and dark tiles are staggered and separated by grey lines, creating the illusion that the lines are curvy. However, they are in fact all straight and running parallel with one another. Weird!
This is real head-twister! If you stare at one of the dots for long enough, the other two will start to gradually disappear. However, if you flick over to one of the other dots just before it disappears, it will suddenly reappear and the other two will fade away. Someone pass the migraine pills!
The Banister People
The invention of the banister brought about a rather unexpected optical illusion. As you can see, you can look at the above picture one of two ways. If you look at the banisters, you’ll see just that – banisters. However, if you look between the banisters, you’ll see people. It’s a bizarre illusion that can also be observed by placing two specifically-shaped vases side by side. They will create the illusion of two faces.
Small Circle Large Circle
At first glance, the circle at the center of the image on the left looks considerably smaller than the circle at the center of the image on the right. This is not actually the case. Both center circles are in fact exactly the same size. The circle on the right just looks smaller because it is surrounded by smaller dots, and vice versa for the circle on the left. Mind. BLOWN.
The Impossible Elephant
A variation on the previously mentioned impossible trident, the ‘impossible elephant’ at first glance looks like a drawing of a normal elephant. However, take a closer look and something doesn’t seem quite right. Thanks to the way the elephant is drawn, it appears to have far too many legs despite clearly only having four feet. Don’t stare at this for too long or your brain will explode!
The Fraser Sprial
First described by the British psychologist, Sir James Fraser, the famous ‘Fraser spiral’ tricks the mind into thinking it is looking at a spiral. However, this is not in fact the case. If you trace any of the individual lines of the ‘spiral’ with your finger, you will find that they are in fact concentric circles. A combination of shapes and various colors helps trick the mind into seeing something that isn’t actually there.
The Grey Dots
Despite what your eyes are telling you, this is static image. By placing this amount of black squares in rows, evenly spaced apart, the mind is tricked into believing grey dots are appearing and disappearing between the black squares. This gives off the impression that this is a moving image. In reality, the image is not just static, but there are in fact no grey dots at all.
The Illogical Cube
there are several variations on the ‘impossible cube’ or’illogical cube’, but they all have one thing in common – they trick the mind into thinking it is viewing a fully-three dimensional object. In reality, the impossible cube isn’t a 3D cube at all. It’s a 2D image cleverly drawn to fool the mind into thinking it is looking at a 3D image. Clever!
The Kanizsa Triangle
Italian psychologist Gaetano Kanizsa became famous throughout the world when he published a book on psychology in the 1970s containing the above image. The ‘Kanizsa triangle’ cleverly uses shapes to create the illusion of a white triangle. In actual fact, the triangle does not exist in the true sense of the word. It is being created by your mind thanks to the shapes that surround it.
At first glance, this just appears to be a drawing of a human face, and that’s all some people will ever see when they look at it. However, if you take a moment to stare at it, you may suddenly see something completely different that erases the face and replaces it with a word. That’s right – the face morphs into the word ‘liar’. Neat trick!
The Green Dot
This moving images consists of twelve purple dots with a black cross-hair at their center. Each dot disappears for 0.1 second in a clockwise rotation. If you stare at the cross-hair, something utterly bizarre happens. The movement of the purple dots is replaced by a green dot that travels in a circle while the purple dots appear and disappear at the same time. Strange!
This is truly bizarre. Ar first glance, the leaves in this image appear to move around in waves. However, you’ll be surprised to learn that this is not in fact the case. The waves you can see are being created by your brain, and this is actually a static image that’s not moving at all. If you stare at the image for long enough, the leaves stop moving.
The Mariachi Band
When you quickly look at this image, you’ll see two old timers staring at one another. However, look again and you won’t see that at all. You’ll see two mariachi players and a woman in the distance. The players and the woman are carefully placed – along with objects in a room and the room itself – to create the illusion that you’re looking at two old people, when they are in fact not there.
Duck Or Rabbit?
Is it a rabbit, or is it a duck? It’s actually both, thanks to the way it’s drawn. Look at this image one time and you’ll see a duck. Look again and you’ll see a rabbit. Your brain will flick between the two images, never quite settling on one or the other. This image was said to trouble the German philosopher Wittgenstein very much!
The Chair Illusion
This is yet another mind-melding optical illusion that works by placing a pitch black chair in a very specific place. At first you’ll think you’re looking at a chair that’s facing away from you. However, when the man sits down on the chair, you suddenly realize it’s actually facing towards you. A very clever way to trick the mind.
Long And Short Lines
There seems to be no argument to this one. The line in the bottom image is quite clearly longer than the line in the top image, right? Nope! Both lines are in fact exactly the same length, which can be proved by laying the edge of a sheet of paper or a ruler over the image and connecting the ends of the two lines. The illusion is created by inverting the lines in the second image, making the line appear much longer than it actually is.
The Black Dots
This is another optical illusion created using black squares arranged evenly in rows. This time, grey lines separate the squares, intersected with white dots. As you look at the image, some of the white dots turn black. However, if you try to look at the black dots, they will disappear and reappear at the corner of your vision. In reality, there are no black dots at all. They are being created by your mind.
The Open Book Illusion
Like the ‘illogical cube’, this image plays tricks with your mind by making you think you’re seeing a 3D image when it is in fact a 2D image. On top of that, this very simple illusion also makes you think you’re looking at an open book. However, just when you think that’s it, you suddenly think you’re looking at the back of a book. Like the duck and the rabbit illusion, your mind will never quite settle on either open book or back of the book; instead it will flicker between the two. Genius!