Monday, May 22, 2006

Lose Your Illusions

Ever play that childhood game of staring at the passing clouds and saying what it looks like? Often times, you swear you see an elephant, but your friends don't see it. To you it's clear - to them, it might be a pig or a Volkswagon.

Scientists in Scotland from the University of Glasgow are working to figure out how the brain deciphers visual stimulus, and why many times we view different "optical illusions" from the same visual source.

Participants stared at various paintings by artist Salvador Dali, known for hiding visual illusions within his paintings, while being hooked up to brain-mapping equipment. What scientists found was interesting. Subjects took in the visual information, broke it down into smaller "brainwave" pieces, and their brains were only interpreting one set of brainwaves one at a time.

For example, when shown Dali's "Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire," they either saw the two nuns in the center of the painting OR the bust of Voltaire. The brain was unable to clearly view both images simultaneously.

"In ambiguous paintings, people will see two possible interpretations of a painting but they will not see both at once," Dr. Phillipe Schynes reported. He goes on to say:

"The brainwaves associated with one part of a painting may be slow, while another part may be fast. Although both sets of waves are created at the same time, the brain is only sensitive to one at a time, so it has to switch between them in order to see each, but cannot see both at once."

If you ever look at an image with hidden images (like those stupid prints that you had to stare at until you went cross-eyed) the brain has no problem picking out that illusion once it detects it. Some people SWEAR to never be able to see those hidden 3-D images, yet others have no problem seeing them.

It's an interesting finding, and I have several other optical illusions for you to try out:

The Herman grid. Do you see those little dark blobs in the corner of the black squares? Your brain is really "placing" those dark blobs where they actually do not exist in the picture.

Rubin's vase. Do you see the black faces? Or the white vase. Your brain is going to switch back and forth...but it can't clearly view both images at once. Don't try it, or you'll get a migraine like I did.

Kanisza triangle. You see that white triangle in the middle? Here, your mind is actually constructing an object that isn't really there. Those little circles look like tiny Pac-Mans.

Rosie O'Donnell. Do you see the "Queen of Nice" or a big fat bitch? It all depends on your mind's perspective.


Ben Heller said...


There really is ONE black blob in the middle of that grid. After pressing my face up against my monitor I spotted it.

People are looking at me strangely, perhaps they're not seeing the mild mannered office worker, but an idiotic bufoon who likes pressing his face against computer screens.

BrianAlt said...

I see little dark blobs and triangles in Rosie O'Donnell's face. What does that mean?

Mimi said...

Queen of bitch.

My eyes are always seeing things in the oddest things. We just went to a restaurant that had some of the same eye teasers on the menu! LOL

Perplexio said...

Dude, I haven't eaten yet today-- if you're going to spring a picture of Rosie O'Donnell, PLEASE put a disclaimer at the begining of your post to prevent any subsequent dry-heaving that may result.

PDD said...

Hey Pheonix!!

First, I absolutley love Salvador Dali. I have this huge mother effin book on him and his paintings. It's so effin' heavy if it dropped on your foot I am sure it would shatter the bones. He also created a tarot card deck although I have never physically seen his deck.

I just wanted to say that I see both images simultaneously. I am not saying that I can initially detect it simultaneously, but once I have detected both images I can then view them simultaneously. The vase and the faces - I can see all at once; at the same time.

I too saw that one dot Ben Heller is talking about but, I did gradually begin to see sort of faded circles in between the squares. I think this is because our brains automatically try to lessen the confusion and/or try to make an image as clear as possible when viewing it. Little faded circles distinguishes from squares. A contrast in order to make the prime visual clear if you will. Just like the white triangle, our brains create that white trangle in order to make clear the prime object or visual. Again, to distinguish. It would be interesting to see if one would still see that white trangle prior to ever seeing a white triangle.

Does what I have just said here make sense?

The Phoenix said...

ben, you pressed your face up to the monitor? Brilliant! I wish I could see a pic of that.

brianalt, She's satan.

mimi, I find eye teasers give me headaches.

perplexio, I don't need to guess which perspective you saw.

PDD, We all are able to see, but I think what they mean is focus. Maybe you can actually focus on both since you are psychotic....oops...I mean psychic;)

PDD said...

Pheonix: I really can see both simultaneously for however long I wish. I am not trying to be funny. In all honesty that is the truth.

I am not psychic. I never claimed to be psychic. My blog name is a long story and I have posted it on my blog. It has nothing to do with me being psychic. I just wanted to make that clear.

O Ceallaigh said...

I can see both images at once also (the Dali and the vase). But only after I've perceived the two options separately. And it's work to integrate them. "My picture's better." No way, dude, mine is." "Your taste is in your mouth, dude, it's mine." "Hey, brainwaves, this is CPU. SHUT UP already!"

Wonder if the "fast" set of brainwaves is strongly correlated with "survival" images. Predators. Prey. Cute chicks. O'Donnell avoidance.

Seems to work the same way with hearing.

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest

  - "The Boxer", Paul Simon

DaBich said...

pdd has ambidextrous eyes! I have to concentrate to see anything, but I DO find everything, and yes, it makes me dizzy!

The Phoenix said...

PDD, darling - you are not psychotic either!

o ceallaigh, Funny. I have selective hearing for sure.

debich, And dizzy isn't bad. I can see both, although it's a lot of work to do so. My mind wants to just focus on one object at a time.

:P fuzzbox said...

I like the examples of optical illusions that you used. I had never seen the pac-man ones. That was cool. I always remember the one that asks you which you see the old hag or the good looking girl.

jay lassiter said...

definitely big fat bitch here~

Pixie said...

I saw one black blob on the grid and then all the rest were grey.
As for those bloody hidden images on prints and in books. I can look for ages and still see nothing, it pisses me off because I think I am missing something good!

Curare_Z said...

At first I thought that pic of Rosie O'Donnell was her pretending to be one of those triangle Pac-Men.

I can stare at that Salvador Dali painting for hours...I find new stuff every time I look at it...

delmer said...

"Queen of nice or big fat bitch?"

That made me laugh out loud.

Way back in 1974 I painted my basketball backboard with three arrows pointing into the basket. The arrows from the side curved from the edges and down.

A lot of kids saw the arrows. A lot of kids saw two fish jumping into the hoop (two of the bolts made for good eyes.)

After someone pointed the fish out to me it was all I could do not to see them.

The Phoenix said...

Fuzz, I've seen the young girl/old hag one too. The girl image popped out immediately and it took me a few seconds to see the old hag with the giant nose.

jay, I have to agree. Star Jones would also agree.

Pixie, those hidden 3-D images are so cool. I wonder why many people can never see them.

curare, my favorite is the one with the melting clocks and the dolphin.

delmer, That's exactly right. Once the alternative image is pointed out, it's impossible to ignore.

Bruce said...

A lot of these images don't work on me, because I'm blind in my left eye, and after seeing that pic of Rosie O', I'm now blind in my right eye, too.

Jon Cox said...

I love this post!!!
Thank you for your comment as well!
I appreciate it ALOT!! :o)

michele said...

Sorry to say i see a big fat bitch.
Is it something wrong with me?
Stop by for a visit.

Jamie Dawn said...

The Rosie part cracked me up! Maybe Rosie is a Jekyll and Hyde.

I swear I saw the image of an old man on the marble floor of our hotel bathroom in Montreal. I even took a pic of it. I may use it for a post some time. Courtney NEVER saw what I saw, even after I drew it on a piece of paper and had her compare it to the image on the floor. It was clear as day to me, but then I am a bit off kilter.

Very interesting post! Me liked it.

kim said...

Ben - *LAUGH* I'd have liked to see that!

Phoenix - Great post! Once I parse both images (like in the faces/vase) then I can see both at once. But my brain has to process both images first - that make sense?

But I also see rainbows on my TV that nobody else can so I'm clearly already defective.

Keshi said...

I see dead kidding :) but I do have an ability see many many things that others ard me cant see...amazing!

Great interesting post..

The Phoenix said...

Bruce, you made me blow my soda out of my nose. Brother, you crack me up.

jon, just keep doing your art.

michelle, yup - me too. I'll visit for sure.

JD, yes - you definitely have to post that pic now. I have to see it!!!!! Off kilter?? Maybe just a little bit.

kim, you do make sense, and I think the rainbows is from that plasma screen you got.

keshi, are your visions drug induced??? Just kidding.

Kay said...

But surely TV big wigs wouldn't let a bitch on "The View," would they?

Better not say any more, lest Star Jones tries to hunt me down in her upcoming spare time...

Jay said...

Since optical illusions are tricks of the mind and not the eyes, I have proposed a name change to branical illusions, but I see it has not yet caught on.

Jim said...

Remember this one?

English Professor said...

Very fun. I can see Dali and the slaves at the same time after I've looked at it for a minute or so. Thanks for reminding me of those "find the 3D pictures"--I used to love those (and yes, I could see them).

Jim, I don't remember that one--is it supposed to be Satan's face in the smoke?

Jim said...


The Phoenix said...

kay, Star Jones will be too busy "pursuing other opportunities" to hunt you down.

jay, You are the wordsmith. From henceforth, I will call them branical illusions!

jim, I remember that. The brain tries to make sense of chaos, whether it's smoke from the 9-11 terrorist attacks, rock formations on Mars, or clouds in the sky. The satanic face is pretty creepy, though.

english professor, Thanks for stopping by. I could see the 3-D pictures too, but I'd say half of those around me couldn' matter what.

Sar said...

My head hurts. ;)

I always see faces in things like in wood panelling with knots. Really bizzare shaped faces.

No really, I'm *twitch* quite fine.

Jennifer said...

Dali was a genuis on crack.

Did they have crack when he was painting?

I've wondered why the brain cannot pick up both images in illusions. I mean you can look at a house and see the trees, grass and structure, so why can the brain not see both images?

ozymandiaz said...

Ya know what's weird? I look at that last picture and I can't see a damn thing, just one big ol empty blotch. If I look to the left the blotch is to the right of my a vision and visa versa. It's as if my brain refuses to process the information at all...

Sherri said...

I happen to be one of those people who never see the image on those 3D poster prints.

As for Rosie, she really irritates me! The only thing I see is a big fat bitch!

DaBich said...

Sar ~ they have meds for things like that *twitch*

Etchen said...

Ok, the Kanisza triabgle thing is giving me a headache. Damn I hate it when puzzles are smarter than I am. ;-)

The Phoenix said...

sar, Many people see images of Jesus in wood. So you're not alone.

jennifer, it has something to do with how our brain works combined with how our retinas work. I read the scientific explanation, but reading it gave me a headache.

ozy, You can't see it at all??? Maybe you have a selective brain.

sherri, you have to kinda cross your eyes and stare at it until you almost pass out.

dabich, I think the twitching is cute.

Dirk the Feeble said...

I saw a vase and two nuns in the Rosie O'Donnell picture.

The Phoenix said...

etchen, the Herman grid actually gives me a headache. Anytime there are a ton of lines or zig zags, I get nauseaus.

derk, the vase is actually the svelte sillouhette of her life partner...and the two nuns are two other lesbians shopping at Home Depot.

Carae said...

I figured it's about time I visit your blog... seems we both have good taste in other blogs we peruse...

I've always LOVED optical illusions. You didn't put up the old woman/young woman one, though, a personal favorite of mine. I would love to find out more about the brain processing of the images...

phred said...

The last one, I see a BIATCH !!

Fated said...

lol that's a great Rosie O'Donnell picture.

I remember having pictures like these in psychology. I always thought they were so neat. It's like a present when you can only see the one thing and finally you see the other (yes i'm aware that probably made no sense)

I think you should bold your migraine warning. I read it after the fact!

michele said...

Phoenix i can see the vase
and black images at the same
time .Yea for me i'm a genius!

Anhoni Patel said...

LMAO. I loved the last bit Phoenix.

Brains perception is fascinating _ i went through a time whr I was obessed with eye-magic.

vani said...

LMFAO- if I would of drinking something right now I would of spit it all out, all over my computer!!!!

Phats said...

I really enjoyed this entry ha! I remember looking at those little wooden things that had "jesus" in them crazy. I never saw an elephant in the clouds though.

Rosie O'donnell that's hilarious!
I vote for Queen of the Fat Bitches? Wait not an option

Keshi said...

hahahahaha nope but close!


Jamie Dawn said...

I promise I'll post that pic in the near future.
It will be interesting to see of anyone else sees what I saw.

Buffy said...

Rosie scares me. Not saying I dont like her. Just that she scares me.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I always HATED those 3-D prints you had to stare and stare at...I could NEVER see the hidden image. I always said I could because everyone else could but that was just peer pressure. ;)

And hey, I actually think Rosie is pretty funny! (Scary, but funny!):)

The Phoenix said...

carae, Yes...we both have great taste in blogs. My readers are the best for sure.

phred, right on brother!

fated, Yeah - I need to warn people better next time. Rosie also gives me the runs.

michele, Either that or you're cock-eyed for life.

anhoni, Eye magic? Is that like making your eye balls disappear?

Cari said...

I love illusions.

Prity cool.

dad loves salvador so does dave a good friend..

The Phoenix said...

vani, I'm glad you weren't drinking anything carbonated.

phats, I did a post awhile back about the images of Jesus and a couple saints found in wood. Don't forget Jesus on toast!

keshi, if not drug induced - then you must've landed on your head a couple times.

JD, YES! Please post it. I'd love to try to see what you saw.

buffy, if Star Jones and Rosie were to fight, I'd have to go with Rosie on that. She's a rough lesbo.

stacy, Peer pressure can indeed make you see things that aren't there. You have to create a "soft gaze" in order to see the cool hidden images. Rosie can be very funny, but when she's not on TV or in the movies, she's really a big fat hypocritical bitch. Telling people that they are going to hell for owning a gun, but then having a whole squad of armed bodyguards for her and her adopted kids????


phlegmfatale said...

*LOL* Great kicker on this one. I see an annoying fat bitch.

cube said...

Fascinating subject. As far as Rosie goes, she's never been nice and she hasn't been funny in years.

Elmer's Brother said...

yea that last picture looks like a big fat blob too

Carmel said...

I love those illusion pics, I have always liked the one with the 2 faces.

brianna said...

ow. i DID get a migraine...

The Phoenix said...

Where are the Rosie fans????

Jillian said...

lol phoenix!!! that is awesome! I'm not sure about the bitch in Rosie O'Donnell lol - but you sure did pick a nice picture!

I like the dots picture too - that was a very interesting post - I have always loved optical illusions - I can't tell you how many times I have seen the faces/vase thing. Very cool :-)

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