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Optical Illusions

Optical illusions

An optical illusion is something that plays tricks on your vision. Optical illusions teach us how our eyes and brain work together to see. You live in a three-dimensional world, so your brain gets clues about depth, shading, lighting, and position to help you interpret what you see. But when you look at a two-dimensional image, your brain can be fooled because it doesn't get the same clues. Take a look at the optical illusions below. Can you figure them out?

Is the pencil on the right bigger than the pencil on the left? Or are they the same size?

Fish optical illusion

How many fish do you see?

Tophat optical illusion

Is the hat taller than it is wide? Use a ruler to find out.

Vase optical illusion

Is this a picture of a vase? Or two faces looking at each other? Do you see both?

Cyclops optical illusion - mouth 1
Cyclops optical illusion - mouth 2

Which mouth is bigger? Make your guess and then measure them to find out.

Ask a Scientist: What Is an Optical Illusion?

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This video features Dr. Matt McMahon describing optical illusions and how they play tricks on our eyes. Created on April 30, 2013.

Last updated: June 10, 2022