The ancient adage, "seeing is believing" may seem to hold a key to objective truth, but does it? Of course anyone can believe anything they see, but beliefs hold no requirement to objective reality, nor does seeing, by itself, necessarily point to something "out there." Moreover, seeing does not require a person to believe in what they see, as the adage seems to assert.

Although vision certainly gives us information about the world, scientists now know that biological eyesight involves a complicated energy-matter and neurological network that, unfortunately, can also give us false information at times. Although our eyes detect light, only the brain can "see," and when we get caught believing what we see, we also fall prey to falsehoods.

The following visual illusions demonstrate that, although you may still believe what you see, what you believe and what the objects actually represent may differ by a wide margin.


Spiral Illusions



Illusion (Uzumaki ampan) by Akiyoshi Kitaoka

So you think you see spirals? Well, your brain may construct a spiral but nowhere in these graphics do spirals exist. The curves form independent concentric circles! Trace the lines with your finger and discover it for yourself.


Scintillating grid

Black dots seem to appear and then vanish at the intersections of the horizontal and vertical lines. Strangely, the illusion only seems to work at a distance. If you move your eyes close to the screen, the illusion vanishes.

E. Lingelbach discovered the scintillating grid illusion in 1994.


Color word illusion

Look at each word and speak out the colors, not the word.

Part of your brain tries to identify the color while another part of your brain reads the word. This regional brain conflict can produce errors in perception.


Old woman, young woman

Do you see a young woman or and old woman?

If you see a young woman, and wish to see the old woman, imagine the ear as an eye, the necklace as a mouth and the chin as a nose.

If you see an old woman, and wish to see the young woman, imagine the eye as an ear, the mouth as a necklace and the nose as a chin.

Your brain wants to flip to either one or the other image but if you study it long enough you might see both images at once. Can you do it?


Checker-shadow illusion

This illusion should blow your mind. Squares A and B have identical shades of grey! If you compare the two squares together, you will realize that they, indeed, have the same grey-scale value. With that knowledge, you will have no need to believe, even though the illusion will still persist.

To see the two squares compared together, click here.

For the original source and the answer of how this illusion works, see Edward H. Adelson's web page.


Grey Shade Illusion


Shade Illusion


This illusion has similarity to the Checker-shadow illusion above. Both squares have the same grey-scale value! To see this, place your finger across the middle horizon and the two squares will 'magically' appear the same shade.


The Blue and the Green
by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
(From Discover)


Amazingly the "blue" spirals actually have the same color as the green. In other words no blue exists in the illusion; it only exists in your mind. You can check this by zooming in using a graphics program such as Photoshop. 



Rotating Snakes Illusion
by Akiyoshi Kitaoka

In spite of the impression that this looks like an animated graphic, nothing in it moves. The "movement" occurs only in your mind.

For a view of the original "Rotating Snake," click here   



Moving Green Dot Illusion
by Michael Bach

Stare at the black cross in the center and notice a green dot rotating. Now try concentrating really hard and steady at the cross for a long time. If you do it right, the pink dots will disappear and you'll only see the green dot rotating.

However, nowhere does green exist in this illusion except in your mind!

If you follow the movement of the rotating green dot, the green will dissapear.



Dr. Angry and Mr. Smiles
by Dr Aude Oliva and Dr Philippe Schyns

These scary fellows don't always appear as they seem. Obviously Dr. Angry appears on the left and Mr. Smiles on the right. But if you back away from your computer screen a few feet, the effect will switch around; Mr. Smiles will change places with Dr. Angry. The effect works at different distances for some people. I had to move back about 15 feet before the switch occurred.

To read the explanation of the illusion, read the scientific paper (in pdf format) here.



Disappearing Fluff

Stare at the black dot for a minute (the longer the better), and watch the colored 'fluff' disappear!


Three Nudes


False Head Photo

The large bearded head between the two people appears as the most dominant thing in this photo. You just can't miss it. No doubt some people will think it looks like Jesus, but in fact, the head exists only as an illusion.

Appearances don't always agree with reality. In actuality, the photo shows a child sitting on the man's knee and not a man's head. I kid you not.

Block out the head's "hair." That's just foliage in the background. The child's head appears as the "eye" in the large head. The hat on the child appears as the forehead in the head. The child's sleeve looks like the nose, and the child's bent arm looks like the "mustache."

It may take you awhile to see this.



Face in the beans

Humans seek patterns, but sometimes we have to look hard to see the obvious.

How quickly can you find the face in the beans?



Sexy Breasts?


Sexy Breasts

 It's a book! (you pervert)


Sexy Spread


It's a lamp! (you degenerate)


Impossible Cube

Impossible Cube

(Source: Visual Fun House)


The Dragon Illusion


This video shows how the Dragon Illusion works.

As the camera scans the dragon, it appears to move its head.

Click here to view video.



Right Brain vs. Left Brain

Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Most of us see the dancer turning anti-clockwise, though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

(When I first looked at it, I saw the dancer turning clockwise, but after a few seconds, it flipped direction, go figure.)



Bricks Illusion

Bricks Illusion

You may not see the illusion even after minutes of staring at this photo.

You might think someone has tricked you into staring at a photo that really has no illusion in it. Not so.

Amazingly, once you see it, you won't have the ability to not see it.

If you give up, visit Phil Plait's take on this illusion here.



Scary Illusion

Something appears very wrong here. You can't see it in this small picture so click here to examine it. Concentrate carefully.






Jesus on the Beach

This observation comes from Lang Hames and reported in James Randi's newsletter.

Hames was walking on an island in the South Pacific where he saw a Jesus-like figure standing standing on a beach. The man had long dark hair and a light grey cloak, hunched slightly and with his head bowed as if he were in solemn contemplation or prayer, standing completely alone just beyond some driftwood on the beach.

His girlfriend, Tara, took a few photos as they approached the man.

Examine these photos carefully, and then go to the bottom of the web page to see the last photo.








As you can see, 'Jesus' here looks very much like a piece of driftwood.

This type of illusion goes by the name, "Pareidolia," and describes a misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct. It explains various misperceptions which includes Mary aspirations, the face of Jesus on a burnt tortilla, many UFO visions, Elvis sightings, etc.