|Man knows so much and does so little. - Inventor Buckminster Fuller|
Chapter 4 - Types of Geometrical Optical Illusions:
No simple classification of optical illusions is ample or satisfactory, for there are many factors interwoven. For this reason no claims are made for the various divisions of the subject represented by and in these chapters excepting that of convenience. Obviously, some divisions are necessary in order that the variegated subject may be presentable. The classification used appears to be logical but very evidently it cannot be perfectly so when the "logic" is not wholly available, owing to the disagreement found among the explanations offered by psychologists. It may be argued that the "geometrical" type of optical illusion should include many optical illusions which are discussed in other chapters. Indeed, this is perhaps true. However, it appears to suit the present purpose to introduce this phase of this book by a group of optical illusions which involve plane geometrical figures. If some of the latter appear in other chapters, it is because they seem to border upon or to include other factors beyond those apparently involved in the simple geometrical type. The presentation which follows begins (for the sake of clearness) with a few representative geometrical illusions of various types.
The Effect of the Location in the Visual Field. One of the most common illusions is found in the letter "S" or figure "8." Ordinarily we are not strongly conscious of a difference in the size of the upper and lower parts of these characters; however, if we invert them (8888 SSSS) the difference is seen to be large. The question arises, Is the difference due fundamentally to the locations of the two parts in the visual field? It scarcely seems credible that visual perception innately appraises the upper part larger than the lower, or the lower smaller than the upper part when these small characters are seen in their accustomed position. It appears to be possible that here we have examples of the effect of learning or experience and that our adaptive visual sense has become accustomed to overlook the actual difference. That is, for some reason through being confronted with this difference so many times, the intellect has become adapted to it and, therefore, has grown to ignore it. Regardless of the explanation, the illusion exists and this is the point of chief interest. For the same reason the curvature of the retina does not appear to account for illusion through distortion of the image, because the training due to experience has caused greater difficulties than this to disappear. We must not overlook the tremendous "corrective" influence of experience upon which visual perception for the adult is founded. If we have learned to "correct" in some cases, why not in all cases which we have encountered quite generally?
This type of illusion persists in geometrical figures and may be found on every hand. A perfect square when viewed vertically appears too high, although the illusion does not appear to exist in the circle. In Fig. 4 the vertical line appears longer than the horizontal line of the same length. This may be readily demonstrated by the reader by means of a variety of figures. A striking case is found in Fig. 5, where the height and the width of the diagram of a silk hat are equal. Despite the actual equality the height appears to be much greater than the width.
|Fig. 4. - The vertical line appears longer
than the equal horizontal line in each case.
A pole or a tree is generally appraised as of greater length when it is standing than when it lies on the ground. This optical illusion may be demonstrated by placing a black dot an inch or so above another on a white paper. Now, at right angles to the original dot place another at a horizontal distance which appears equal to the vertical distance of the first dot above the original. On turning the paper through ninety degrees or by actual measurement, the extent of the optical illusion will become apparent. By doing this several times, using various distances, this type of optical illusion becomes convincing.
The explanation accepted by some is that more effort is required to raise the eyes, or point of sight, through a certain vertical distance than through an equal horizontal distance. Perhaps, unconsciously, we think of this kind of effort in terms of distance, but it is illogical to inquire as to why we have not through experience learned to sense the difference between the relation of effort to horizontal distance and that of effort to vertical distance through which the point of sight is moved?
|Fig. 5. - The vertical dimension is equal to the
horizontal one, but the former appears greater.
We are doing this continuously, so why do we not learn to distinguish; furthermore, we have overcome other great obstacles in developing our visual sense. In this complex field of physiological psychology questions are not only annoying, but often disruptive.
As has been pointed out in Chapter II, images of objects lying near the periphery of the visual field are more or less distorted, owing to the structure and to certain defects of parts of the eye. For example, a checkerboard viewed at a proper distance with respect to its size appears quite distorted in its outer regions. Cheap cameras are likely to cause similar errors in the images fixed upon the photographic plate. Photographs are interesting in connection with optical illusions, because of certain distortions and of the magnification of such aspects as perspective. Incidentally in looking for optical illusions, difficulty is sometimes experienced in seeing them when the actual physical truths are known; that is, in distinguishing between what is actually seen and what actually exists. The ability to make this separation grows with practice but where the difficulty is obstinate, it is well for the reader to try observers who do not suspect the truth.
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Chapter 4 - Types of Geometrical Optical Illusions:|
Illusions of Interrupted Extent
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