Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes!
Optical Illusions Show How We See
|Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes!
Optical Illusions Show How We See
A fascinating demonstration of how our
visual system is conditioned by what we perceive as 'Reality', with
unexpected conclusions about what we call Illusions. Beau Lotto's color games puzzle your vision, but they
also spotlight what you can't normally see: how your brain works.
fun, first-hand look at your own versatile sense of sight reveals how
evolution tints your perception of what's really out there.
An optical illusion is characterized by visually perceived images that differ from objective reality. The information gathered by the eye is processed in the brain to give a perception that does not tally with a physical measurement of the stimulus source.
There are three main types: literal optical illusions that create images that are different from the objects that make them, physiological ones that are the effects on the eyes and brain of excessive stimulation of a specific type (brightness, tilt, colour, movement), and cognitive illusions where the eye and brain make unconscious inferences.
They can also be known as "mind games".
and artist Beau Lotto is founder of Lottolab, a hybrid art studio and
With glowing, interactive sculpture -- and good,
old-fashioned peer-reviewed research -- he's illuminating the mysteries
of the brain's visual system.
Why you should listen to him: "Let
there be perception," was evolution's proclamation, and so it was that
all creatures, from honeybees to humans, came to see the world not as it
is, but as was most useful.
This uncomfortable place -- where what an
organism's brain sees diverges from what is actually out there -- is
what Beau Lotto and his team at Lottolab are exploring through their
dazzling art-sci experiments and public illusions.
Matrix installation, for example, places a live bee in a transparent
enclosure where gallery-goers may watch it seek nectar in a virtual
meadow of luminous Plexiglas flowers. (Bees, Lotto will tell you, see
colors much like we humans do.)
The data captured isn't just discarded,
either: it's put to good use in probing scientific papers, and sometimes
in more exhibits.
Outside the studio work, the brain-like (that
is, multidisciplinary) organization is also branching out to bigger
public engagement works.
It's holding regular "synesthetic workshops"
where kids and adults make "color scores" -- abstract paintings that
computers interpret into music, as with scrolls fed to a player piano.
lately they're planning an outdoor walkway of color-lit,
pressure-sensitive John Conway-esque tiles that react and evolve
according to foot traffic.
These and Lotto's other conjurings are
slowly, charmingly bending the science of perception -- and our
perceptions of what science can be.
Beau Lotto teaches at
University College London.
"All his work attempts to understand
the visual brain as a system defined, not by its essential properties,
but by its past ecological interactions with the world. In this view,
the brain evolved to see what proved useful to see, to continually
redefine normality." (British Science Association)
An optical illusion (also called a visual illusion) is characterized by visually perceived images that differ from objective reality.
The information gathered by the eye is processed in the brain to give a perception that does not tally with a physical measurement of the stimulus source.
There are three main types: literal optical illusions that create images that are different from the objects that make them, physiological ones that are the effects on the eyes and brain of excessive stimulation of a specific type (brightness, colour, size, position, tilt, movement), and cognitive illusions, the result of unconscious inferences.
To make sense of the world it is necessary to organize incoming sensations into information which is meaningful. Gestalt psychologists believe one way this is done is by perceiving individual sensory stimuli as a meaningful whole.
Gestalt organization can be used to explain many illusions including the Duck-Rabbit illusion where the image as a whole switches back and forth from being a duck then being a rabbit and why in the figure-ground illusion the figure and ground are reversible.
Gestalt means "form" or "shape" in German. However, another explanation of the Kanizsa Triangle is based in evolutionary psychology and the fact that in order to survive it was important to see form and edges.
The use of perceptual organization to create meaning out of stimuli is the principle behind other well-known illusions including impossible objects. Our brain makes sense of shapes and symbols putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle, formulating that which isn't there to that which is believable.