Optical illusions are tricky little things. They can often leave us wondering how they trick our brain and eyes. A new study suggests that a type of illusion known as the “simultaneous-contrast illusion” may have finally been explained.
See that image at the top of the article? The gray rectangle at the center of the article might appear to have two colors, but it is actually only one. It appears two colors due to the gradient backdrop it was placed on.
So how do these optical illusions create so much confusion in our brains? Well, according to new research published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, the explanation behind this illusion’s trickiness comes down to a limitation in our eyes. Previously, researchers believed it was an issue with our brain’s processing power. According to the new research, this doesn’t appear to be true.
“This throws into the air a lot of long-held assumptions about how visual illusions work,” Dr. Jolyon Troscianko, one author on the study, told Science Focus. According to Dr. Troscianko, there are limits to how fast the neurons can fire in the eyes. Previous research on these illusions failed to take into account how this might affect how we perceive them.
This is a fascinating discovery that, according to the doctor, turns our belief system on its head. We have seen science disprove human hypotheses before. Every step advances our knowledge of how bodies function. Scientists can better understand optical illusions by understanding the way we see them.
Researchers used a computer model to mimic the limitations of our eyes and thus replicate how we see these optical illusions. When the model was exposed to these particular illusions, it was overwhelmed by the high volume of high contrasts, which resulted in the model perceiving the illusion the same way that humans do.
This is a model that shows how the neurons have evolved in humans and have been finely tuned to perform specific functions. Researchers hope to utilize this information in the future to study how animals perceive colors with neuron bandwidths that are different from humans. Optical illusions have always made the rounds on the internet, too, including one that looked like a cat with a hole in it back in 2018.
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