Why The World Isn’t As It Seems – Facts So Romantic

Take a close look at the floor tiles in the scene below. First, focus your attention on the tile directly below the potted plant, in the shadow of the table. Then, look at the tile to the right, outside of the table. Which of these tiles is brighter? The left one?

Courtesy of Beau Lotto

Wrong. In fact, as you can see in the image below, the colors of the tiles are identical. This trick is known as the brightness illusion. We perceive an object against a light background as darker than the same object against a dark background. That’s because our vision systems are attuned to contrasts, which helps us distinguish shapes (like an advancing predator). The upshot is that we don’t always see things for what they are.

Courtesy of Beau Lotto

As a neuroscientist who studies illusions at University College London, Beau Lotto knows all about the ways our brains can distort reality to our evolutionary advantage. I spoke to him about the deceptive nature of perception and whether it is possible to ever see anything for what it is.

What do brightness illusions teach us about how we see?

Everything we do is a kind of perception. Our experience…

Read More…

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