Christian Long

Beau Lotto: Optical Illusions Show How We See

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Reflection by VICTOR L.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Beau Lotto: Optical Illusions Show How We See

Optical illusions have puzzled and shocked people everywhere throughout the years. Almost everyone understands how they alter our perception but don’t know why. Beau Lotto believes he has found an answer.

Much like Plato he believes that it is impossible for our brain to interpret reality. He believes that optical illusions reveal the flaws in our sight. Beau Lotto believes that Optical Illusions prove to us that our sight is imperfect and if you can learn why they flaw our sight you can learn how we see.

The world that we see is not the world that is.

This is a hard concept to grasp.

Beau Lotto believes that optical illusions are a way to understand this concept. He believes that the colors we see are not the colors that are physically there. His theory is very similar to that of Plato’s cave. Plato was the first to really ask how accurate our senses really are. He imagined our senses as prisoners chained to the floor of a cave, looking at shadows cast on the wall from a fire behind them. These prisoners, unable to turn around, saw only the shadow of the image, not the image itself. Beau Lotto translates this same theory into color using optical illusions, such as his cube with all the squares of color on it. He uses optical illusions as evidence by simply showing them and describing what the brain is determining, learning, and accepting as truth, then showing what the image physically is. He even says “If you remember anything in this next eighteen minutes, remember this: that the light that falls on to your eye, sensory information, is meaningless.”

There is only one problem I had with the talk.

This was when you looked at the dot in between the two red and green squares.

When I looked down at the desert scene my right picture was green and my left picture was red. I did some research and stumbled upon the “afterimage effect.” According to the “afterimage effect” when you stare at a color for a long time your photoreceptors get fatigued of that color and “ignore” it, therefore when you look at an image the color is still “ignored” making you see its compliment. Other than that, the talk is very interesting. If you have ever wondered how we see I highly recommend this talk. He really looks at sight through a psychologist’s perspective as well as showing some creative optical illusions.

Looking at optical illusions we can get a sense of how we see. Beau really gives you the sense that you can’t see everything you think you can. Then he proves you can’t by showing you optical illusions. He really brings forth the ideas of Plato’s cave with a modern twist of psychology. Beau Lotto believes that Optical Illusions prove to us that our sight is imperfect and if you can learn why they flaw our sight you can learn how we see.

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