Food for Thought: Visual Illusions Good Enough to Eat [Preview]

Face or food? The brain recognizes edible artwork on multiple levels

Dramatist George Bernard Shaw said that there is no sincerer love than the love of food. If so, the miniature workers depicted here are living the dream. Of course, it's all a matter of scale.

The juxtaposition of Lilliputians and huge fruit has the dual illusory effect of making the potentially normal-size people look tiny and the possibly typical fruit look supersized. It happens because the human brain uses context, the relative dimensions of nearby objects in the world as a primary means to determine their scale and absolute size.

Think about it: we can't simply use the size of the projection on our retinas to determine the size of an object, because the size of the projection depends on how far away the object is. A small, nearby object can have a retinal projection of the same size as a larger object that is farther away. To compensate for distance, the brain compares the sizes of unknown objects with those of known objects that are in the same scene. Juxtaposing tiny people with enormous fruit plays havoc with that scaling system, and both categories of object are affected.

or subscribe to access other articles from the June 2010 publication.
Digital Issue $5.99
Digital Subscription $19.99 Subscribe
Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article