What do you see?

What do you see?

Jul 15, 2012

Do you think your eyes can play tricks on you?

Are you really seeing what you think you are seeing?

How can two people look at the same thing and see it two completely different ways?

These could of course be very deep philosophical questions.  Or, this could mean we’re about to look at some fun things!  I say, “Let’s have some fun!”

As an optometrist living in the quaint town of Pacific Grove, I often run into patients.  One day “Susan” and I were walking along the Rec. Trail looking at two boats in the Monterey Bay.

She commented, “I think my eyes play tricks on me because at first I think I see two boats side by side, one big and one small. But then I look again and I think it’s one boat up close and the other is just as big but far off.”

These are the kinds of questions with which we can have fun!

We humans have pretty complicated brains.  So complicated in fact, that we look at simple images and interpret them as complex.

Look at the simple sketch in Image 1.

We know this is a sketch of three circles.  We also know each circle is a different size.  Or are they?  They could be three circles all the same size, but arranged further and further away from you.  Or they could be side by side in the same plane, and all different sizes.  Our minds want to see in depth.  We want to see this as a sketch of three circles in depth moving further away.  But it could be the other way too.

This ability of our minds to interpret our world in different ways is why optical illusions are so fun!

We’ve seen how our minds perceive depth.  How about length?

Look at Image 2.

Is the line from A to B longer or shorter than the line from C to D?

The line from A to B looks longer doesn’t it?

But line A-B is actually the same length as line C-D!

Now let’s see what our minds do if forced to make a choice.  This is a classic optical illusion that’s been around for a while.

Look at Image 3.

What animal do you see in Image 3?

If you see a bunny, you are right!

If you see a duck, you are also right!

Both answers are correct.  But your mind has to choose one or the other.  You can’t see both at the same time, so your mind switches back and forth, at lightning speed, between bunny and duck.

These are great examples of how your brain works together with your eyes to perceive a whole lot of fun!

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