By definition, an optical illusion is something that deceives the eye by appearing to be other than it is. It’s the feeling you’re experiencing something that doesn’t exist or in another way, your eyes are fooling your brain, which in turn fools everything else.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of thinking something is moving when it isn’t. In other cases, it’s thinking something is a different size than a comparable object when, in fact, the two objects are exactly the same. It could be coloring, it could be lighting, it could be the dimension of an object or image that sends everything you know to be true out of whack, and the result is something very cool.
The following 15 items are optical illusions you’ll have a hard time believing can be so crazy. We’ve tried to pick objects, pictures, or videos that everyone can do and see without having to work too hard. The result, in many cases, will be unbelievable.
We’re sure you’ve seen similar items to the ones on our list, but maybe these particular illusions are new to you. Some of them are neat, some extremely creative, and some a little trippy. The final entry on our list was even for a good cause. Share with friends and comment. See if they see what you see. I showed my kids and they thought this was about the coolest thing ever!
15. Is The Image Moving?
Let’s start with one that’s super easy to see working. I don’t know anyone who’s looked at this image right away and said they didn’t see the effect. Does this image looks like it’s moving?
Sometimes, people have to start by looking away and then glancing at the object. Others find it easier to see the illusion if they stare directly at this image for a short while. Either way, you will see the individual leaves appear to flow or sway in unison as if caught in a light breeze. But, no, it’s not moving. It’s just your eyes playing tricks on you as all the components of this photo are completely still.
14. See The Dots?
It’s hard not to see the gray dots all over this photo. The image is of a series of horizontal and vertical white stripes crisscrossing over a black background. Even though your eyes see gray dots at many of the intersecting points between the background and the lines, there really are no gray dots at all.
One of the easier ways to explain is by understanding how your eyes try to correct themselves going from light to dark colors and reverse. In this pattern, it’s difficult to make the adjustment that quickly, so you see gray. Ludimar Hermann first discovered this effect in 1870. If you want to see something else really cool, just pick any one of the dots and stare at it for a few seconds. Watch it disappear.
13. Where Did It Go?
Want to see something cool? Stare at this image in one spot for about 30 seconds. What do you think will happen? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Did you notice that the image started to disappear? This is a variation of something known as the Troxler’s effect which essentially says that if you fixate your eyes on a certain point, stimuli near that point will gradually fade.
This one was by far one of my favorites and it still baffles me that something so clearly there and full of color can just fade away if you choose to look right through it. I wish I could make this happen with my annoying relatives or my daughter’s obsession with leaving her fidget spinners all over the house. Maybe if I just stare long enough at them, they’ll all just vanish.
12. You Say You Saw Who?
There are people all over the world who swear they’ve seen Jesus Himself. Sometimes they’ll say they saw his likeness in a bowl of cereal. Maybe they saw him in a Walmart shopping aisle. Others swear they just saw what they thought was an image (like a light) of the Son of God. Maybe they’re all wrong. Perhaps what they saw was this photo and then what they saw next gave them a feeling of being touched by heaven.
Stare at this photo for a little while. Do it for about 30 seconds. Then, look away and stare at something else (preferably, a white wall or the ceiling). What did you see? Are you going to go calling the press and saying you saw Jesus too? No, honestly, people won’t think you’re a nutjob at all.
11. Watch ‘Em Spin
This one takes a little bit of movement on your part. Look at the image from far away. What do you see? Is it two gray circles with a black dot in the center, right? Yes. Now, if you look at the black dot, you still see this image. Now, look at the black dot and move your head forward and backward, closer and farther away from the image. Now, what do you see?
The circles start to appear like they are rotating, right? If you move closer, the inner circle rotates counter clockwise and the outer clockwise. Move your head farther and the opposite effect occurs and the circles change direction.
10. Which Orange Dot Is Bigger?
You know that you know better, but if I ask you to look at this photo, I’ll bet you’ll tell me the orange circle on the right looks a whole hell of a lot bigger than the orange circle on the left. And when I say you know better, it’s because you realize that both of those orange circles are exactly the same size.
This is known as the Ebbinghaus Illusion. It’s not a foregone conclusion as to how our brain is being fooled into thinking these two dots are different sizes, but clearly, it’s thanks to the outer blue circles and the spacing that make us believe something entirely different is going on than there really is. You’ll find many versions of this type of illusion in different books about the subject.
9. Where Did It Go…Again?
Much like our first example of the disappearing picture, this one adds another dimension. What’s neat about this is that if you stare at the picture for a couple seconds, what you’ll see is a green dot rotating around a circle of magenta dots.
Stare at the center cross for a while longer and something really cool starts to happen. The magenta dots (which we all know are there) start to go away. What you’re left with is a green dot rotating around in a circle on a blank page. Your brain will fool your eyes into thinking that the green is the only thing left on the page. If you find it hard to focus, move a little closer to the image/screen. That tends to help.
8. Moving In A Circle? Nope.
Take a look at this cool illusion. You might think that when you watch this video, all you see is a series of dots in a circle rotating around inside a larger circle. That’s what pretty much everybody sees. It seems like a natural conclusion to come to. Just watch the video to see how wrong you really are.
The video explains by adding one dot at a time that the white dots are not actually moving in a circle at all. What’s happening is that a number of dots moving back and forth across a straight line give our brain the perception that all the circles moving back and forth are actually spinning. They aren’t; never were. It becomes really easy to notice when broken down into smaller parts.
7. Follow The Light…
If you help us out for a moment, you’ll get to see something kind of neat. Stare at this photo for a moment without moving your head. What do you see? Is it a red and white piece with a small circle of white light near the center right? Now try something else.
Look directly at the center light and start to move your head closer and farther away from the image. What happens now? The light all of a sudden becomes bigger and smaller. This is known as the dynamic luminance-gradient effect. Basically, it means that as you get closer or farther, the brightness increases or decreases dramatically. Some call this effect the “here comes the sun illusion.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty neat.
6. Spirals, Not Spirals
If you take out a piece of paper and draw a spiral on it, what are you doing? Well, like anyone else, you’re drawing a line that never comes off the page and never connects, only getting smaller as you reach the center. See if you can’t notice something different about this image.
If you follow your finger along one of the lines (you might have to zoom out to get the entire image on your screen), you’ll notice that your finger comes right back to the point in which it started. It doesn’t get closer to the center at all. It simply does a giant loop. Then, why does it appear like this image is one giant spiral?
5. Your Brain Is Trying to Help
Take an image, move another image with a series of slits across it, and watch the magic start! Because the top image is filtering what our eyes see at a slower rate than normal, the lack of information we receive all at once makes it appear as though the bottom image is rotating or moving when, in fact, it isn’t.
Our brain is an interesting thing. It doesn’t like not having all the information it thinks it needs. When it’s missing pieces, it then fills in the gaps of different stages and recreates the experience of viewing fluid movement. This is done with all sorts of things in our lives and the human brain is working its magic like this nonstop 24 hours a day. This is just one of the easier ways to see it up close and personal.
4. Moving Letters
Watch the video above. When you fixate on the letters, they appear to be moving, right? Well, they’re not. If you don’t believe me or the person who put this video together to demonstrate the illusion, all you have to do is place a ruler or a piece of paper (something with a straight edge) on the top of the letters and watch how that at no point in time will the letters actually change position.
These letters are all perfectly still and the only thing that changes are the shades of color filled into them; they are perfectly stationary. The changing fill-shade fools the brain into seeing a movement that is not occurring. This could be a cool effect for a digital billboard, but otherwise, it’s kind of just a neat effect.
3. Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You
This one is really cool. But just as a heads-up, it might make you see images and colors for a couple of seconds after the video is done.
If you watch the video and stare at the letters, reading them as they file through, you’ll see a very cool effect. It appears as though, not only does the image move in all sorts of crazy ways, but the colors change too. There is, in fact, no color change at all.
It is our eyes fooling us into believing new colors were added. If you feel at any time like you’re getting lightheaded watching the video, just look away. This one is definitely one of the more trippier illusions we included on this list.
2. Where’s The Face?
Okay, we have a trick for you. But if you want to be honest with yourself about how much more your right brain is developed than most, you have to be honest. Take a look at this photo of coffee beans. Do you see the man’s face? If you can find it in under three seconds, congrats, you have a highly developed right brain and you are considered artsy or creative. But if you can’t see it right away, don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re dumb.
Once you find the face, try something else. See if you can’t look at this picture and unfind it. Every time you look at this photo from now on, your eyes will be drawn to the face almost immediately. Kind of creepy, hey?
1. Animals Or People?
If you look at this last image quickly, what do you see? Are you a person who sees three white animals? Or, do you see the people around the white animals?
This image was created as part of an advertising awareness initiative for World For All Adoptathon in Mumbai. These ads worked. The event saw a 150% increase in foot traffic, and World For All was able to adopt out 42 previously-homeless animals in a single day.
Photographer Amol Jadhav and art director/retoucher Pranav Bhide created these images, and they are some of the coolest we’ve seen in a long time. Extremely creative and well done. Plus, to promote the idea of pet adoption earns big brownie points here on this list. As their tagline says, “There’s always room for more. Adopt.”
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