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Chapter 5 - Equivocal Figures:
Fluctuating Optical Illusions
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Chapter 5 - Equivocal Figures:
Psychological or Physiological?

Chapter 5 - Equivocal Figures:Psychological or Physiological?
A Random Illusion
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In the foregoing only definite optical illusions have been presented which are universally witnessed by normal persons. There are no hallucinatory phases in the conditions or causes. It is difficult to divide these with definiteness from certain optical illusions of depth as discussed in Chapter VII. The latter undoubtedly are sometimes entwined to some extent with hallucinatory phases; in fact, it is doubtful if they are not always hallucinations to some degree. Hallucinations are not of interest from the viewpoint of this book, but optical illusions of depth are treated because they are of interest. They are either hallucinations or are on the border-line between hallucinations and those optical illusions which are almost universally experienced by normal persons under similar conditions. The latter statement does not hold for optical illusions of depth in which objects may be seen alternately near and far, large and small, etc., although they are not necessarily pure hallucinations as distinguished from the Types of optical illusions regarding which there is general perceptual agreement.

In explanation of the illusory phenomena pertaining to such geometrical figures as are discussed in the foregoing paragraphs, chiefly two different kinds of hypotheses have been offered. They are respectively psychological and physiological, although there is more or less of a mixture of the two in most attempts toward explanation. The psychological hypotheses introduce factors such as judgment, will, attention and imagination. Helmholtz and also Hering claim that it is largely a matter of chance or will that cause the kind of inversion to occur. The latter holds that the perception of perspective figures is influenced by imagination or the images of memory. That is, if one form of the figure is vividly imagined the perception of it is imminent. Helmholtz has stated that, "Glancing at a figure we observe spontaneously one or the other form of perspective and usually the one that is associated in our memory with the greatest number of images."

The physiological hypotheses depend largely upon such factors as accommodation and eye-movement. Necker held to the former as the chief cause. He has stated that the part of the figure whose image lies near the fovea is estimated as nearer than those portions in the peripheral regions of the visual field. This hypothesis is open to serious objections. Wundt contends that the inversion is caused by changes in the points and lines of fixation. He says, "The image of the retina ought to have a determined position if a perspective illusion is to appear; but the form of this optical illusion is entirely dependent on motion and direction." Some hypotheses interweave the known facts of the nervous system with psychological facts but some of these are examples of a common anomaly in theorization, for facts plus facts do not necessarily result in a correct theory. That is, two sets of facts interwoven do not necessarily yield an explanation which is correct.

Continue on to Chapter 6 on Angles

Chapter 5 - Equivocal Figures:
Fluctuating Optical Illusions
1   2    

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About This Book Preface Chap 1, Introduction Chap 2, The Eye Chap 3, Vision Chap 4, Geometrical Chap 5, Figures Chap 6, Angles Chap 7, Depth/Distance Chap 8 Brightness/Contrast Chap 9, Color Chap 10, Lighting Chap 11, Nature Chap 12, Painting/Decorating Chap 13, Architecture Chap 14, Magic Mirror Chap 15, Camouflage

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