List of optical illusions

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This is a list of visual illusions.

Name Example Notes
Afterimage illusion Afterimagenpov.svg An afterimage or ghost image is a visual illusion that refers to an image continuing to appear in one's vision after the exposure to the original image has ceased.
Afterimage on empty shape (also known as color dove illusion) Afterimage.svg This type of illusions is designed to exploit graphical similarities.
Ambiguous image Duck-Rabbit illusion.jpg These are images that can form two separate pictures. For example, the image shown forms a rabbit and a duck.
Ambigram Ambigram Real world Prank Fake animated (2).gif A calligraphic design that has several interpretations as written.
Ames room illusion Ames room.svg An Ames room is a distorted room that is used to create a visual illusion.
Ames trapezoid window illusion Ames window.png A window is formed in the shape of a trapezium. It is often hung and spun around to provide the illusion that the window rotates through less than 180 degrees.
Autokinetic effect The autokinetic effect, or autokinesis, occurs when a stationary image appears to move.
Autostereogram Stereogram Tut Random Dot Shark.png
Stereogram Tut Eye Object Size.png
An autostereogram is a single-image stereogram (SIS), designed to create the visual illusion of a three-dimensional (3D) scene from a two-dimensional image in the human brain. An ASCII stereogram is an image that is formed using characters on a keyboard. Magic Eye is an autostereogram book series.
Barberpole illusion Barberpole illusion animated.gif The barber pole illusion is a visual illusion that reveals biases in the processing of visual motion in the human brain.
Benham's top Benham's Disc.svg When a disk that has lines or colours on it is spun, it can form arcs of colour.
Beta movement Phi phenomenom no watermark.gif Movement that appears to occur when fixed pictures turn on and off.
Bezold Effect Bezold Effect.svg An apparent change of tone of a colour due to the alteration of the colour of the background.
Blivet Poiuyt.svg Also known as "poiuyt" or "devil's fork", this illusion is an impossible image because in reality the shape cannot exist.
Café wall illusion Café wall.svg This illusion is a pattern where different coloured squares on a wall appear to form horizontal curved lines. It is named such because this is the type of artwork often seen on café walls.
Catoptric cistula Catoptric theatre.jpg A catoptric cistula is a box with insides made of mirrors so as to distort images of objects put into the box.
Checker shadow illusion Checker shadow illusion.svg
Grey square optical illusion proof2.svg
The checker shadow illusion shows that when a shadow is cast onto a checked board, the colours of squares A and B in the photos appear to be different, when in fact they are the same.
Chubb illusion Chubbillusion.gif The Chubb illusion is an optical illusion or error in visual perception in which the apparent contrast of an object varies substantially to most viewers depending on its relative contrast to the field on which it is displayed.
Color constancy Hot air balloon - color constancy.jpg Colour constancy is an example of subjective constancy and a feature of the human color perception system which ensures that the perceived color of objects remains relatively constant under varying illumination conditions. A green apple for instance looks green to us at midday, when the main illumination is white sunlight, and also at sunset, when the main illumination is red.
Color phi phenomenon The color phi phenomenon is a perceptual illusion in which a disembodied perception of motion is produced by a succession of still images.
Contingent perceptual aftereffect
Convergence micropsia
Cornsweet illusion Cornsweet illusion.svg An illusion where two colours can obviously be seen to be different when placed directly beside each other; however, when the two colours are separated by a thick black line, they appear to be of the same hue.
Crater illusion Tycho LRO.png A type of multistable illusion where an image of a concave object, rotated so that the light source is below, may sometimes appear convex, and vice versa. This phenomenon is due to the fact that light sources tend to shine from above the subject.
Delboeuf illusion Delboeuf.svg An optical illusion of relative size perception. The two black circles are exactly the same size; however, the one on the left seems larger.
Disappearing Model A trompe-l'œil body painting by Joanne Gair.
The dress
Two ways in which the photograph of The dress may be perceived: blue and black under a yellow-tinted illumination (left figure) or white and gold under a blue-tinted illumination (right figure).
An optical illusion resulting from the brain's attempt to discount coloured tinting from daylight and other sources.[1] The dress was a viral phenomenon, which was either seen as blue and black or as white and gold. Its true colours were eventually confirmed to be blue and black.[2]
Ebbinghaus illusion Mond-vergleich.svg The Ebbinghaus illusion, or Titchener circles, is an optical illusion of relative size perception. The two orange circles are exactly the same size; however, the one on the right appears larger.
Ehrenstein illusion Ehrenstein.svg
Ehrenstein Illusion.svg
The Ehrenstein illusion is an optical illusion studied by the German psychologist Walter Ehrenstein in which the sides of a square placed inside a pattern of concentric circles take an apparent curved shape.
Fata Morgana (mirage) Fata Morgana Example.jpg Visible in a narrow band right above the horizon, Fata Morgana mirages significantly distort the object or objects on which they are based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable. A Fata Morgana may be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts. It may involve almost any kind of distant object, including boats, islands, and the coastline.
Fechner color
Figure-ground (perception) Cup or faces paradox.svg
Filling-in Troxler fading.svg
Flash lag illusion
Forced perspective Europe 2007 Disk 1 340.jpg Application used in film and architecture to create the illusion of larger, more distant objects.
Fraser spiral illusion Fraser spiral.svg The Fraser spiral illusion, or false spiral, or the twisted cord illusion, was first described by the British psychologist Sir James Fraser in 1908. The overlapping black arc segments appear to form a spiral; however, the arcs are a series of concentric circles.
Gravity hill
Grid illusion HermannGrid.svg
Grid illusion.svg
Any kind of grid that deceives a person's vision. The two most common types of grid illusions are the Hermann grid illusion (1870) and the scintillating grid illusion (1994). The first is characterized by "ghostlike" grey blobs perceived at the intersections of a white (or light-colored) grid on a black background. The grey blobs disappear when looking directly at an intersection. The second is constructed by superimposing white discs on the intersections of orthogonal gray bars on a black background. Dark dots seem to appear and disappear rapidly at random intersections, hence the label "scintillating". When a person keeps their eyes directly on a single intersection, the dark dot does not appear. The dark dots disappear if one is too close to or too far from the image.
Hering illusion Hering illusion.svg The Hering illusion (1861): When two straight and parallel lines are presented in front of radial background (like the spokes of a bicycle), the lines appear as if they were bowed outwards.
Hollow-Face illusion Bjorn Borg Hollow Face.jpg The Hollow-Face illusion is an optical illusion in which the perception of a concave mask of a face appears as a normal convex face.
Hybrid image Hybrid image decomposition.jpg A Hybrid image is an optical illusion developed at MIT in which an image can be interpreted in one of two different ways depending on viewing distance.
Illusory contours Kanizsa triangle.svg Illusory contours or subjective contours are a form of visual illusion where contours are perceived without a luminance or color change across the contour.
Impossible object Impossible cube illusion angle.svg
Irradiation illusion
Isometric illusion Cubes at Heureka, optical illusion.jpg An isometric illusion (also called an ambiguous figure or inside/outside illusion) is a type of optical illusion, specifically one due to multistable perception.
Jastrow illusion Jastrow illusion.svg The Jastrow illusion is an optical illusion discovered by the American psychologist Joseph Jastrow in 1889.
Kanizsa triangle Kanizsa triangle.svg The Kanizsa triangle is an optical illusion first described by the Italian psychologist Gaetano Kanizsa in 1955. It is a triangle formed of illusory contours.
Kinetic Depth Effect The Kinetic depth effect refers to the phenomenon whereby the three-dimensional structural form of a silhouette can be perceived when the object is moving. In the absence of other visual depth cues, this might be the only perception mechanism available to infer the object's shape. Additionally the direction of motion can reverse due to the existence of multiple 3D visual solutions.
Leaning tower illusion The Leaning tower illusion is an optical illusion that presents two identical images of the Leaning Tower of Pisa side by side.
Lilac chaser Lilac-Chaser.gif Lilac chaser is a visual illusion, also known as the Pac-Man illusion.
Liquid crystal shutter glasses
Lunar terminator illusion Lunar terminator illusion is an optical illusion where the apparent source of sunlight illuminating the moon does not corresponding with the actual position of the sun.
Mach bands Mach band.svg Mach bands is an optical illusion named after the physicist Ernst Mach.
McCollough effect Grid for McCollough effect.svg The McCollough effect (1965) is a phenomenon of human visual perception in which colorless gratings appear colored contingent on the orientation of the gratings. It is an aftereffect requiring a period of induction to produce it.
Missing square puzzle Missing square puzzle.svg
Missing square edit.gif
The missing square puzzle is an optical illusion used in mathematics classes to help students reason about geometrical figures.
Moon illusion Moon size illusion.png The Moon illusion is an optical illusion in which the Moon appears larger near the horizon than it does while higher up in the sky.
Motion aftereffect
Motion illusion Anomalous motion illusion1.svg
Müller-Lyer illusion Müller-Lyer illusion.svg The Müller-Lyer illusion is an optical illusion consisting of a stylized arrow.
Musion Eyeliner
Necker cube Necker cube.svg The Necker cube is an optical illusion first published in 1832 by Swiss crystallographer Louis Albert Necker.
Numerosity adaptation effect Numerosityadaptation.png
Orbison illusion Orbison illusion.svg The Orbison illusion is an optical illusion that was first described by the psychologist William Orbison in 1939.
Penrose stairs Impossible staircase.svg The Penrose stairs was created by Lionel Penrose and his son Roger Penrose.[3] A variation on the Penrose triangle, it is a two-dimensional depiction of a staircase in which the stairs make four 90-degree turns as they ascend or descend yet form a continuous loop, so that a person could climb them forever and never get any higher.
Penrose triangle Penrose triangle.svg The Penrose triangle was first created by the Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvärd in 1934. The mathematician Roger Penrose independently devised and popularised it in the 1950s, describing it as "impossibility in its purest form".
Pepper's ghost
Perceived visual angle VisualAngleAboveHorizonDefs.svg
Peripheral drift illusion PDIFaubertHerbert.png A motion illusion (1979/1999) generated by the presentation of a sawtooth luminance grating in the visual periphery.
Phantogram Phantogram projection diagram.svg Phantograms, also known as Phantaglyphs, Op-Ups, free-standing anaglyphs, levitated images, and book anaglyphs, are a form of optical illusion.
Phi phenomenon
Poggendorff illusion Poggendorff illusion.svg The Poggendorff illusion (1860) involves the misperception of the position of one segment of a transverse line that has been interrupted by the contour of an intervening structure (here a rectangle).
Ponzo illusion Ponzo illusion.gif In the Ponzo illusion (1911) two identical lines across a pair of converging lines, similar to railway tracks, are drawn. The upper line looks longer because we interpret the converging sides according to linear perspective as parallel lines receding into the distance. In this context, we interpret the upper line as though it were farther away, so we see it as longer – a farther object would have to be longer than a nearer one for both to produce retinal images of the same size.
Pulfrich effect The Pulfrich effect is the effect that covering one eye with transparent but darkened glass can cause purely lateral motion to appear to have a depth component even though in reality it doesn't; even a completely flat scene such as one shown on a television screen can appear to exhibit some three-dimensional motion, but this is an illusion due to the fact that darkening the scene for one eye causes the photoreceptors in that eye to respond more slowly.
Rubin vase Face or vase ata 01.svg Rubin vase (1915): an ambiguous or bi-stable (i.e., reversing) two-dimensional form.
Sander illusion Sander Illusion.svg In Sander's parallelogram (1926) the diagonal line bisecting the larger, left-hand parallelogram appears to be considerably longer than the diagonal line bisecting the smaller, right-hand parallelogram, but is in fact the same length.
Silencing Silencinghue.jpg Silencing is an illusion in which a set of objects that change in luminance, hue, size, or shape appears to stop changing when it moves.
Size–weight illusion The size–weight illusion is also known as the Charpentier illusion or Charpentier–Koseleff illusion.
Stepping feet illusion Stepping-Feet-Motion-Illusion.gif The stepping feet illusion is influenced by the contrast between moving objects and their background.
Stroboscopic effect Strobe 2.gif
Swept-plane display
Ternus illusion The Ternus illusion (1926/1938) is based upon apparent motion.
Thaumatrope Taumatropio fiori e vaso, 1825.gif A thaumatrope is a toy that was popular in Victorian times.
Troxler's fading Troxler's fading: When one fixates on a particular point for even a short period of time, an unchanging stimulus away from the fixation point will fade away and disappear.
Vertical–horizontal illusion Vertical–horizontal illusion.png The Vertical-horizontal illusion is the tendency for observers to overestimate the length of a vertical line relative to a horizontal line of the same length.
Visual tilt effects TiltIllusion.jpg
Wagon-wheel effect WagonWheelEffect.gif
White's illusion White illusion.svg
Wundt illusion Wundt illusion.svg The two red vertical lines are both straight, but they may look as if they are bowed inwards to some observers. The distortion is induced by the crooked lines on the background
Zoetrope Zoetrope.jpg
Zöllner illusion Zollner illusion.svg The Zöllner illusion is a classic optical illusion named after its discoverer, German astrophysicist Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Colour of This Dress". Wired. 2015-02-27. Archived from the original on 28 February 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Optical illusion: Dress color debate goes global". BBC News. BBC. Archived from the original on 2019-07-13. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  3. ^ Penrose, LS; Penrose, R. (1958). "Impossible objects: A special type of optical illusion". British Journal of Psychology. 49 (1): 31–33. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1958.tb00634.x. PMID 13536303.

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