Christian Long

Beau Lotto: Optical Illusions Show How We See

In TED Talks on April 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Extra credit reflection by JENNA K.

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

Beau Lotto: Optical Illusions Show How We See

An optical illusion is an image that is perceived by the human eye differently than objective reality. The way an image is perceived depends on the effects on the eyes and brain after excessive stimulation and cognitive illusions where the eye and brain make unconscious inferences. Because of this, visual information is virtually meaningless because it could mean anything. The same object could look different in any number of situations because the light that is reflected on our eye is determined by the pigmentation of the object and the space between our eyes and the object.

As Lotto said, “the brain evolved the mechanisms for finding patterns, finding relationships in information, and associating those relationships with a behavioral meaning, a significance, by interacting with the world.” Considering this, we understand that the way we interpret what we see reflects our previous interactions with the world.

Since everybody interacts with the world differently, we literally see things differently.

Lotto also said, “The brain didn’t actually evolve to see the world the way it actually is. We can’t. Instead, the brain evolved to see the world the way it was useful to see it in the past.” My question is, if we continuously stimulate our mind with optical illusions, could we become “immune” to their effects?

The first time I looked at this picture I only saw a duck. But, once I looked closer, I saw the rabbit. Now, everytime I see this picure I can see both animals very easily. The first time I looked at it, I was thinking about animals and I saw the yellow under the eye, so my brain automatically thought “duck” – because of my previous encounters with yellow rubber ducks. Then, when I read that there was both a duck and a rabbit, I saw the rabbit. Now, because my brain has learned that there are two animals, it can easily visualize both. This shows that the brain does learn very easily and quickly from experience with the world.

So, it seems to me that if you look at enough optical illusions, your brain will learn from each one and won’t be tricked the next time.


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