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Optical Illusions and the Illusion of Love
How do we fool thee? Let us count the ways--that illusions play with our hearts and minds
Optical Illusions and the Illusion of Love
Love Is All Around Romance is not just a concept for humans and voles. This slide shows that love, and illusions, surround us all.
Lola Lee (for ring with heart); http://www.flickr.com/photos/coralpink/sets/72157600276407192/
For Coffee and Tea Lovers “Yuan yang" is a typical Hong Kong beverage mix of tea and coffee, and also a symbol of marriage and love. Sculptor Tsang Cheung-shing has united both concepts in a beautiful ceramic work, in which tea and coffee poured from two stylish cups meet and kiss each other.
Seven Hearts Ambiguity and camouflage both make it difficult to understand what you are seeing. In this painting by Jim Warren, seven hearts are hidden in the romantic scenery.
Credit: Jim Warren; http://www.jimwarren.com/site/
Love and Hate Even more ambivalent is this mirror-symmetric ambigram of love and hate. Talk about mixed feeling—we hope she brings a mirror on her Valentine’s Day date. There’s even a T-shirt available at http://www.madeindesign.com/prod-Psyshirt-love-femme-Pa-Design-refpa85t1l.html.
Here we see that love and
are two sides of the same ambiguous object. This sculpture represents an “ambigram.” Judith Bagai, editor of
, the official journal of The National Puzzlers' League, coined the term by contracting the words "ambiguous" and "anagram" (the original ambigrams were represented by the same word in both directions).
Is Love an Illusion? Spanish essayist Miguel de Unamuno said, “Love is the child of illusion and the parent of disillusion.” Is this view cynical or biologically based? This series on the neuroscience of illusions highlights that illusions are, by definition, mismatches between physical reality and perception. Love, like all emotions, has no external physical reality: it may be driven by neural events, but it is nevertheless a purely subjective experience. So, too, is the wounded heart we have drawn in this slide. Where the arrow enters and exits the heart there is no heart whatsoever, except for how the arrow itself defines the edges of the imagined heart.
This effect is called an "illusory contour.” We perceive the shape of the heart only because our brains impose a shape on to a very sparse field of data. Neuroscientist Rudiger von der Heydt, of Johns Hopkins University, has shown that illusory contours are processed in neurons within visual brain area called V2. The illusory heart even looks slightly whiter than the background, although it is actually the same shade. Much of our day-to-day experience is made up of analogous feats of filling in the blanks, as we take what we know about the world and use it to imagine what we don’t.
Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde
Illusory Neon Heart Notice that the yellow fields inside of the heart appear paler than the fields forming the contour of the heart, which appear to be a darker shade of yellow/orange. Right? Wrong. Actually, all of the yellow fields in the figure are identical. Any differences that you see are all in your mind. This effect is called “neon color spreading,” because it resembles the effect of the light spreading from a neon lamp. The neural underpinnings of this effect are not yet understood.
@ G. Sarcone; http://www.archimedes-lab.org/Gallery/new_optical_illusions/pages/138-Neon_heart_COL.html
Illusions That Move the Heart Your wandering eyes pull at your lover’s heartstrings. In this illusion, the heart appears to move and even pulsate as you look around the image. When your eyes move, they shift the retinal images of the white/black edges in the pattern, activating the motion-sensitive neurons in your visual cortex. This neural activation leads to the perception of illusory motion. Note that if you focus your gaze on a single point, the illusory motion slows or stops.
Pop! Goes My Heart Nothing is more romantic than curling up in front of a fire with your loved one on Valentine’s Day, as you lovingly whisper, “chromostereopsis.” Okay, maybe it’s not as passionate as a sonnet—unless you are a vision scientist. Look at the red and blue hearts and examine their depth with respect to the background. Most people find that the red heart pops in front of the blue background whereas the blue heart sinks beneath the red background. This illusion comes about because our eyes’ lenses refract blue light more than red. This phenomenon is called a chromatic aberration; another example of this effect is seeing a rainbow when you shine white light through a prism. When both eyes view the red and blue images simultaneously, the cornea and lens of the eyes refract different amounts of the colors, which results in their systematic and symmetric binocular mislocalization. The brain deals with this sensory aberration by imagining depth—the red heart is in front of the blue background and vice versa—even though none actually exists.