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Chapter 9 - Color:
|An After Image Illusion
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After-images. - After looking at bright objects we see after-images of the same size and form which vary more or less in color. These after-images are due to persistence or fatigue of the visual process, depending upon conditions. After looking at the sun for a moment a very bright after-image is seen. Undoubtedly this at first is due to a persistence of the visual process, but as it decays it continuously changes color and finally its presence is due to fatigue.
To see an after-image, one need only look intently at any object for a short time, then direct the eyes at a blank surface like a wall. A picture-frame will be seen as a rectangular after-image; a checkered pattern will be seen as a checkered after-image. When these after-images are projected upon other objects it is obvious that the appearance of the latter is apparently altered especially when the observer is not conscious of the after-image. The effects are seen in paintings and many peculiar phenomena in the various arts are directly traceable to after-images.
It appears unnecessary to detail the many effects for the explanations or at least the general principles of after-images are so simple that the reader should easily render an analysis of any given case.
Let us assume that vision is fixed upon a green square upon a gray or white background. Despite the utmost effort on the part of the observer to gaze fixedly upon this green square, the latter will begin to appear fringed with a pinkish border. This is due to the after-image of the green square and it is displaced slightly due to involuntary eye-movements. After gazing as steadily as possible for a half minute, or even less, if the point of sight is turned to the white paper a pink square is seen upon it. Furthermore, this pink square moves over the field with the point of sight. This is the type most generally noticed.
After-images have been classified as positive and negative. The former are those in which the distribution of light and shade is the same as in the original object. Those in which this distribution is reversed, as in the photographic negative, are termed "negative." After-images undergo a variety of changes in color but in general there are two important states. In one the color is the same as in the original object and in the other it is approximately complementary to the original color. In general the negative after-image is approximately complementary in color to the color of the original object.
After-images are best observed when the eyes are well rested, as in the morning upon awakening. With a little practice in giving attention to them, they can be seen floating in the air, in the indefinite field of the closed eyes, upon a wall, or elsewhere, and the changes in the brightness and color can be readily followed. Negative after-images are sometimes very persistent and therefore are more commonly noticed than positive ones. The positive after-image is due to retinal inertia, that is, to the persistency of the visual process after the actual stimulus has been removed. It is of relatively brief duration. If an after-image of a window is projected on a white area it is likely to appear as a "negative" when projected upon a white background, and as a "positive" upon a dark background, such as is readily provided by closing the eyes. It may be of interest for the reader to obtain an after-image of a bright surface of a light-source and study its color changes with the eye closed. Upon repeating the experiment the progression of colors will be found to be always the same for the same conditions. The duration of the after-image will be found to vary with the brightness and period of fixation of the object.
It is interesting to note that an after-image is seen with difficulty when the eyes are in motion, but it becomes quite conspicuous when the eyes are brought to rest.
An after-image due to the stimulation of only one eye sometimes seems to be seen by the other eye. Naturally this has given rise to the suggestion that the seat of after-images is central rather than peripheral; that is, in the brain rather than at the retina. However, this is not generally the case and the experimental evidence weighs heavily against this conclusion.
If Fig. 52 is revolved about its center and fixated for some time, striking effects are obtained upon looking away suddenly upon any object. The latter will appear to shrink if the spiral has seemed to run outward, or to expand if the spiral has seemed to run inward. These are clearly after-images of motion.
As stated elsewhere, we may have illusions of after-images as well as of the original images. For example, if a clearly defined plane geometrical figure such as a cross or square is bright enough to produce a strong after-image, the latter when projected upon a perspective drawing will appear distorted; that is, it is likely to appear in perspective.
A simple way of demonstrating after-images and their duration is to move the object producing them. For example, extinguish a match and move the glowing end. If observed carefully without moving the eye a bluish after-image will be seen to follow the glowing end of the match. In this case the eyes should be directed straight ahead while the stimulus is moving and the observation must be made by averted or indirect vision.
Chapter 9 - Color:
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Chapter 9 - Color:|
Growth and Decay of Sensation
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