24 Dec Optical Illusions: Perception, Observation, and Imagination
At some point in our lives, all of us have encountered the phenomenon of optical illusions and many of us have wondered exactly what is it that causes these varying perceptions. In 1992, Matthew Luckiesh in his book “Visual Illusions: Their Causes, Characteristics and Applications”, illuminated three main causative factors in optical illusions; perception, imagination, and observation. While most of us possess an imagination, some of us are blessed with being able to imagine in intricate multifaceted dimensional ways whereas others are more concrete and conservative imaginers. Aside from the powers of imagination, individuals also are unique in their abilities to observe and perceive. As Luckiesh said, “only part of what is perceived comes through the senses from the object. The remainder always comes from within.”
Thus if an individual were to take a look at the four above pictures, they would “see” these objects from their unique viewpoint of subjective Imagination, Observation and Perception.
It’s a neat little exercise that you can try with your friends. It doesn’t mean you should try and analyze their answers. It’s meant to be a fun exercise just to show that a picture is truly worth a thousand words, and there is a great deal of grey area when we talk about “objective” perception.
Now if these pictures were put in front of me for example and I had to use my imagination; this is what I would have come up with.
In picture one I would imagine this as being a music stand to hold sheet music. The arrow would be just as it seems a simple arrow. Bet you can guess right off the top I don’t have a vivid imagination. With the second picture, I would have to say the writing gives away the picture but you had to admit it looks more like a tree than a bush, while at least to me. I really had to study picture three to determine that it looked like a birds head. Number four was intriguing in that it had no beginning or an end.
Now if we move on to the observation part of this exercise how many can honestly say they noticed the background. If you were to place your hand over the picture do you really think you would recall the background colors? Interestingly some people would whereas others won’t.
From my personal subjective point of view, I found the pictures mundane and unexciting. Can you guess that I am not an artist or architect, and alas, not even a particularly creative imaginer? However, when comparing notes with my co-worker, she was able to create wonderful three dimensional possibilities and could study the pictures for the smallest of clues. Ah, but she is a gestalt psychologist and told me that the reason I could not see a beginning or end to picture number four is that our minds create a “completeness” and fill in perceptual blanks. Personally, I found picture number four to be most interesting…Hmm. Wonder what that says about me?
Carrying out an exercise such as I have outlined here is for entertainment purposes only. It can be fascinating to hear the perceptions from a group of friends than just singly looking at the illusions.
If there were anything to be learned from this exercise of comparing viewpoints on optical illusions it’s to recognize just how differently individuals perceive any situation. It’s always interesting to note how several people can look at one situation yet all take something different from its context.
You could even go a step further with this exercise and ask each person to make up a story about the picture. Then you will be in for some real fun. Or if you are the more scholarly type, you can read more on the psychological study of perception or the philosophical understanding of epistemology (study of human knowledge), or you can join boomer yearbook and hear what others have to say.
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