table of contents

a look at how humans think and see

8) Visual Illusions: Normal Everyday Perceptions

relfection on store window




















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































There is perhaps no better place for a visual illusions discussion to start than with the visual perceptions in our normal, everyday lives. Our daily experience reveals how ordinary changes to our sight changes our perceptions of unchanging things. Many of these optical and mental tricks barely raise an eyebrow as they are commonplace and we know how they work. Not all of the following examples may qualify as illusions, but all reveal the variations in how we perceive.

* To read at night, you turn on the light. Though the printed words are identical in dark or light, humans can only read them in light. Without light the words disappear from human sight.

* If you enter your home and someone is sitting in a chair in your darkened living room, you may see the form of the person but must turn on the light or ask to find out who it is.

* We often can't identify a bird or other small animal until we pick up the binoculars. It is with the distortion (magnification) of our eyesight that we learn the animal's identity. Without the distortion we can only guess.

* If there is enough sunlight glare on a downtown store window, you can't see what is past the window while standing outside. You can only guess what if anything is inside. Perhaps the store is filled with people and products. Perhaps the store went out of business last week and the inside is bare. When you walk up to the window and shade your eyes, the glare is removed and you see what is inside.

* Most shoppers have experienced where the color of the dress or paint or wallpaper or couch looked different when they got it home, caused by the difference in lighting between home and store. Some have thought they accidentally brought home the wrong item. Some have complained that the store intentionally used deceptive lighting.

* At night you are watching television and see something moving outside, only to discover it is a reflection of you in the window. You move your arms and head side to side to confirm it isn't a scary monster.

From these common situations you get a glimpse at how knowledge and perception are affected by even little things like light intensity and viewing angle. Even a slight change to viewing angle can be the difference between knowing and having to guess. main

(c) david rudd cycleback, all rights reserved