Everyone has seen an optical illusion before, even if they don’t think they have. It can be as simple as driving down a dusty road and seeing water far off in the distance. That’s not water. It is actually heat forming the illusion of water. The closer you get, the further away it seems. The brain isn’t as perfect as we’d like it to be. As such, it can be fooled by rather silly, yet ingenious tricks perceived by the eye. It can be something as simple as a tiny little object in just the right place at the right time — or as complicated as involving celestial bodies like the moon.
Some illusions are staged for illusion’s sake, while others are caught entirely by accident. Regardless of how they were formed, if they make you do a double-take and stare at the picture for about ten seconds longer than necessary, then they’ve done their job. Your brain has to convince both itself and you that what’s seeing is total baloney. The thing that’s actually there is often completely mundane. But that’s just the wonky magic of optical illusions for you. Lets’ go over them, shall we?
What is an Optical Illusion?
It’s essentially your brain getting lost and taking a shortcut. It can’t find the answer to something, so it jumps to a conclusion as to what’s really there. Even simple, obvious answers can be changed for your brain when you alter the environment. Two straight lines can look to be different lengths or spaces when turned a certain way.
You eye converts light bounced off objects into electrical impulses the brain receives. This is how vision is processed. But your brain can’t focus on everything it receives, so it gives short, concise answers where it believes they fit. Whether they do or not is part of the illusion.
The tricky part often lies in solving that illusion for what it really is, that being a normal, mundane item. But because it was arranged weirdly, your brain had no idea on this green earth what the eyeball was looking at. That’s where the illusion portion comes into play.
How Optical Illusions Work
When your brain is faced with far too much information at once, it may become confused in trying to accurately sort everything out. It searches for the easiest route to the conclusion, telling us it’s one thing when it may actually be another. It can change the size, shape, makeup, or even the nature of the object altogether. Your brain is trained to come to the easiest conclusion possible.
Yeah — it’s a little lazy like that. Because your eyes never stop receiving streams of light and sending this information to your brain, your brain can actually get a little confused. It might come to a correct answer at what it’s seeing, or something that is such a lie and untrue that it’s hilarious. To demonstrate, below are twenty of the most insane and off the wall optical illusions we could find.
Best Optical Illusions in Pictures
Modern Optical Illusions
These optical illusions, whether captured in photographs or illustrated, are guaranteed to make you either laugh yourself silly or else scratch your head in confusion while you tilt your screen trying to process what you’re seeing.
Bird of Prey
A young artist in London was enjoying a warm cup of coffee when, on a whim, he dropped a couple of potato rings into his drink. Amazingly, his coffee morphed into some kind of bird of prey eying him from his mug. The picture was posted on Twitter with the quote “Who’d a thunk dunking a couple of Hula Hoops in your coffee would be so beautiful?”
The Moon is So Very Photogenic
Who would have believed you could do so many imaginative things with the moon? French landscape astrotographer Laurent Laveder did. By waiting for certain times when the moon would be in certain positions and then getting inventive with props, he created this stunning series of illusions. Kinda makes you want to carry the moon around in a wheelbarrow for life, though heaven helps us if we could tell you what you’d do with it. See more moon pictures here.
Get to The Choppah! — A Helicopter for Ants
Posted on Imgur, this picture hilariously shows what appears to be a teeny helicopter facing off against a vicious ant. In reality, this is basically the epitome of what optical illusions can look like. As you can see, it’s downright hysterical.
Girl on a Path
Makoto Aida brings us ‘Girl on A Path’. This is a truly mind-bending optical illusion showing a girl facing away from us in Acrylic paint. The part in her hair is seamlessly melding into the path of a nearby rice paddy. It almost looks like she’s got a horn sprouting from her head, doesn’t it?
You’ll Need Glasses – This is not a Caterpillar
This isn’t what it looks like. Literally. It’s not a caterpillar. It’s a small cluster of European bee-eaters all clumped together on a chilly May morning. But from a glance, doesn’t it look like a fuzzy moth larvae? It’s so bizarre, but so uniquely cool at the same time.
‘Scuse Me, You Got a Little Something
At first glance, we see a guy digging for gold on a property that sure as hell isn’t his.
Oh, Look! It’s The Moon Again!
Yet another moon-based illusion, this one makes it appear as if the moon had a bit of an accident. Suspended just perfectly at precisely the right moment, this photographer captured the second that the moon looked as if it were being hoisted about by a crane.
It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, it’s Both!
That’s either one heck of a fast bird, or it’s some kind of fancy new jet. We’re honestly not sure which, but it’s very funny.
I Got it! I Got it!
Nine-hundred foot tall Jesus makes the save! Touchdown!
Couldn’t resist a Robin Williams line. But regardless, isn’t this art? Are we seeing two people? The more I look, the more unique it gets.
Two Heads are Usually Better Than One
We’re not sure how well that applies in this particular case, however.
The Devil or a Cow?
A man fully dressed in a suit with horns at the side of his head. Hold on a moment. Look closer.
That awkward moment when you realize you’ve been transformed into a were-llama.
Natural Finish Colors
They laughed when this company said their paint was actual sky blue. And then they decided to prove themselves
Travel on a Shoestring
Is this woman walking on a tightrope or a shoestring?
Optical Time Warp!
It honestly looks like we’re in a tunnel to the ’70s with this particular piece of optical illusion. And is it actually moving?
The waterfall on this traveler’s hike was the perfect backdrop for this optical illusion.
Classic Optical Illusions
Cafe Wall Illusion
The cafe wall illusion is an optical illusion that was recorded in 1973 by Richard Gregory. Steve Simpson, a member of Gregory’s staff, was looking at the tiles on the wall of a cafe near the bottom of St Michael’s Hill, Bristol.
He noticed that the parallel straight horizontal lines appeared to be bent.
This optical illusion is formed by alternating light and dark tiles in staggered rows. In order for the illusion to work each tile must be surrounded by a layer of color that falls between the white and black colors.
Jastrow Optical Illusion
Which of these objects is bigger? The answer may surprise you.
The two objects are actually identical even though the bottom one looks larger. This is an optical effect called the Jastrow Illusion.
Hermann Grid Illusion
The gray spots at the intersections that you see are an optical illusion called the Hermann Grid Illusion. If you look directly at them, they disappear. One possible explanation for this is lateral inhibition.
This one makes me a little nauseated if I look at it too long. You?
My Wife and My Mother-In-Law
According to the artist, this classic drawing is a picture of both — if you can find them.
The Penrose Stairs
Are they going up or down? What’s the right answer? Is there even one? This very famous Penrose illusion will seriously test your powers of perception.
Duck Or Rabbit?
Well? What is it? What do YOU see when you look at this perplexing image?
Optical illusions have been used throughout history to puzzle, perplex, and baffle us to no end. Psychologists now use them to deduce deeper meanings from brain interpretation. We, common people, use them to confuse the daylights out of our friends. Honestly, at the end of the day, they’re a fun little reminder to how imperfect and lazy our brains can truly be.
So which one is your favorite? Share in the comments.