It’s good to remind ourselves on occasion that our brain can play tricks on us. We can’t blame it. Our brains are bombarded with an overload of information to sift through every second, and it needs to take mental shortcuts to keep up. But these little tricks don’t always work very well, especially when they are related to our thinking patterns. If we’re not careful, these shortcuts can pave the way for some serious thinking errors. We may need to take steps to shift our thinking.
Sometimes we refuse to see our rigid thoughts for what they are: thinking errors. Reminding ourselves that what we KNOW to be TRUE can be FALSE and that our brains can be wrong is important.
A shift in perspective can have powerful effects. This week we are using optical illusions to shift mental perspective.
Check out these Optical Illusions, Explained!
The Shade Illusion
The shade illusion.
Your brain thinks that the cylinder should cast a shadow on the checkerboard, so it automatically adjusts for the change of color of the square! If seeing is believing, you may be wrong.
The Peripheral Drift Illusion
Check out “Rotating Snakes,” by Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a professor of Psychology at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. It gives the visual illusion of being in perpetual motion, even though it’s a still image. The brain science behind this is very complicated, but the bottom line is that it has to do with your peripheral vision. Notice that if you stare directly at the center of one of the black dots, that particular snake will stop spinning! Careful: These types of pictures are known to cause dizziness if stared at too long!
The Ebbinghaus Illusion
These orange circles are the same size, but the size of the surrounding blue dots, throw off your perspective (ever notice a similar phenomenon in other areas of your life? Problems or blessings may appear larger or smaller depending on what’s surrounding them?)!
Do you see an old woman or a young lady when you initially look at this picture? They are both there, but you can’t see them simultaneously. Your brain can’t focus on the two images at once. Instead, your perception of each figure tends to remain stable until you shift your focus to different regions or contours of the image (see below). Certain regions and contours tend to favor one perception, others the alternative. Which perspective do you tend to focus on?
*Trouble seeing both perspectives? To see the “Old Woman”, focus on the two black dots in the middle of the picture, as if they were the eyes of the “Old Woman” with a big nose looking down. If you are having difficulties seeing both images, here is a hint: The tip of the “Old Woman’s” nose is the bottom of the “Young Lady’s” chin, and the young lady is looking away.
Hermann Grid Illusion
If you try to scan across the rows of white dots, you’ll soon notice black dots popping up on other areas of the board. This is because our eyes aren’t great at blocking out the light from surrounding stimuli. They get overly excited and shut down our peripheral vision (basically creating those extra black dots on the board).
Our brain uses something called “lateral inhibition,” meaning it ignores information that it deems unnecessary so that it can focus on the task at hand (searching for the current white dot and ignoring the rest of the white dots on the board). This is great as long as it doesn’t ignore wrong information, am I right?