Battle of the clever stuff


Last week I staged another battle of the clever stuff, and put the floating square illusion against the squares/circle optical illusion. The squares illusion won by a narrow margin so it stays on. This week it is up against a wonderful illusion by Anthony Norcia. Have a look at them both….here is the floating square illusion again….
acswampplasticand here is the new contender….


Most people initially see just rectangles that look like door panels, and after a bit do the 16 circles emerge.

Vote now and feel free to explain your decision.


88 comments on “Battle of the clever stuff

  1. ButMadNNW says:

    For some reason, every time I look at the “emerging circles” illusion, the four on the right are immediately apparent. I see 3 columns of rectangles and one of circles. And then I shift my gaze and see the other circles.

    So pleased to see that illusion made it into the Battle! 😉

    • Carl says:

      Me too. I suspect that the “missing” column might be falling on the blind spot and so the brain, as it does in such circumstances, fills in what it thinks should be there i.e., the panels.

      By carefully shifting my gaze I can make different groups of circles pop in and out of the image. And if I focus slightly past the image (like with those 3D images that were popular a few years back) I easily see all 16.

    • Kate says:

      I have the same response to it – first the circles in the fourth column appear, then the first two columns and finally the third column. Before my brain twigged to the small circles, I was seeing four larger, white, overlapping circles in third column.

    • Master eMailSmith says:

      Amazing – the circles on the right column ‘appear’ first, indeed…

      Any idea WHY is that so?

    • As a matter of fact, forget it.

      I figured out myself – it pertains to the contrast of the various elements, especially the horizontal lines against the vertical ones.


  2. glennji says:

    Same here: the four right “circles” are immediate, with the top one giving the strongest “circle” impression, then the others kind of cascade from top right to bottom left. Cool! (Different sides of the brain, huh?)

  3. mjr256 says:

    Yeah, at first I saw none but then the 4 on the right side emerged first. Then I saw the other 12, which were harder to spot.

  4. Vern says:

    Professor Wiseman, you’ve been holding out on us. Emerging circles is hands down my favorite illusion to weigh into the battle thus far!

    Interestingly, they circles appear to me in a particular order. Column 4, then 1&2 a moment later. Column 3 appears to be quite shy and takes some few seconds to make its appearance.

    We should all vote for the emerging circles illusion if only to give Column 3’s self-esteem a much needed boost.

  5. Noadi says:

    I’m not seeing any of the circles. I’m wondering if this is one of those illusions that require binocular vision (I’m blind in one eye) so I can’t see it. There are a number of illusions I’ve never been able to see, magic eye images for example.

    • Covering one eye with a hand to simulate blindness in one eye, I can still see the circles. It’s a little bit more difficult, but they are apparent.

      Of course, I had the benefit of seeing the illusion with binocular vision first, so I knew what I was looking for in my monocular viewing trial.

    • i am also blind in 1 eye, lost it when i was 5, however this i can see quite easily, but never have i seen the optical illusion stuff where your looking at an image of dolphins swimming and your being asked if you see the stampead of elephants…i’ve tried very hard but no dice…for what its worth i saw the row on the far right first, i also

    • reggie says:

      It took me quite awhile to see the circles. Keep trying.

  6. Rick says:

    I actually had to find an element that had 15 other similar elements, as soon as I found those elements I was able to see the circles. So in other words once I realized that there were 16 in between the square areas, bam, the circles came visible to me. Before that.. I just couldn’t see them 🙂

  7. Noadi says:

    Gah! this is frustrating, I see where they should now be but my brain is not making them into circles.

  8. Frankie says:

    I struggled to see the door panels to start with, only seeing circles!! Can flick between the two now though.

  9. lifes says:

    I cant see any frustrating.

  10. The circles one is awesome! My fav so far!

  11. Whappen says:

    Whoa! A slight sort of squint / cross-eyed thing & there they are, cirlces & square (those magic eye ones took ages).

  12. Chris Gladis says:

    Emerging circles, definitely. And fortuitous – I just went to an art exhibition about art that fools the eyes. Nice find!

  13. James says:

    I think the circles win, in my opinion. Like others, I saw the last column first. The third is definitely harder to spot.

  14. FrankN.Stein says:

    Very good element of surprise, i like the circles…

  15. mrsben says:

    I see sixteen circles, but it took me forever to do so. The ones of the left side are definitely more difficult to find.

  16. Skepdude says:

    Circles, definitely circles…very clever!

  17. Harri says:

    I saw the circles immediately and struggled to see the rectangles. Guess I’m not normal… 😛

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m with you.. I saw them right away thinking it was normal and seeing all these responses of it taking forever to see them all makes me feel abnormal lol

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m also colorblind. i wonder if that in any way could help me to see them faster.

  18. Violet Kiss says:

    Both are great ilusions!! Love them.

    BTW, “59 secs” is going to be translated into brazilian portuguese soon??

  19. byrde says:

    Emerging circles is great! Unlike most people, column 4 is the hardest one for me to see and the most likely not to be there.

  20. lflcorreia says:

    I could only see the circles when i clicked on the image and saw it in large format so my choice still goes to first illusion where the effect is much more visible.

  21. opalunderground says:

    I actually jumped a little when the circles appeared! Definitely my favorite so far. And I, too, saw the fourth column first. I suppose it has to do with being “left-brained”? Do left-handed people see the left side first?

  22. Nikki Hahn says:

    Maybe I didn’t stare long enough, but I did not see circles. I like the floating square better.

  23. Jez says:

    After 2-3 seconds all circles appear…..great stuff!

  24. jana says:

    as for seeing the four circles on the right immediately: i don’t know if it’s been said before, but maybe it’s because of the combination of the shades of grey? compared to the other columns they appear quite “balanced” rather than sorted in a specific angle of the areas. the darkest lines – or what seem to be the darkest ones – are in the middle, fading to the outside. maybe that encourages figural vision.

    just a guess, i’m far from being able to validate that with quality studies.

  25. freedomactionnow says:

    A screen is the ideal vehicle for the “moving pattern” illusions – all you have to do is drag the window around a bit, or even just scroll up and down.

    Very nice.

    I also see the circles on the right first. If I look at the center of where any of the circles is, they all pop out at once, and disappear as soon as I move my eyes. Except, of course, for the four on the right.

    Each of the 4 columns is slightly different – that may explain why column 4 comes out so quickly for most of us.

    I wonder if some of these illusions might be useful in diagnosing vision faults (either in the eye or in the brain), much like the color-blindness charts do.

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  27. Mchl says:

    Circle illusion reminds me of my technical drawing classes 😀 Gets my vote, but very narrowly.

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  29. Irene Suwarno says:

    I like the floating square illusion, for some reasons I see the floating square is moving to the right and then left simultaneously.

  30. psychostudio says:

    Very clever… i like the floating square. colourful…

  31. Liz says:

    For some reasons, the circles on the right jumped out at me as I scrolled down, only went I went up did the rest of them ‘appear’

  32. theprettyproject says:

    I don’t see any circles. 😦

  33. uksceptic says:

    This is awesome. For those of you that can’t see the circles try to look at the picture slightly out of focus while concentrating on the ‘X’ and they should appear.

  34. Emma says:

    Oh, I feel like the circles one would be really cool, but I can’t see them!

  35. Emma says:

    Aah I see them now, I see them!! Brilliant, this is definitely my favourite one out of all of them so far!

  36. Voted for the floating square because (it’s cool, and) the first thing I saw on the other was 16 circles and spent the next minute or so searching for the ones I had missed. Then I read the text :o(

  37. Jim T says:

    Love the circles one

  38. Ms G says:

    People with visual problems probably see them rightaway .. if I squeeze my eyes or blur my vision a bit I see them rightaway … gives apparently a whole differerent perspective on he world. Which one is true, huh?
    I myself saw the door first .. then after reading that I should see circles .. I, very obedient brain ‘(I’m so cute .. trust me, I would never harm you, follow you everywhere) I indeed so them emerge .. the lightest part in the door were the last ones to emerge ..
    The floating thiingy .. if you squeeze it goes away . if you are visual not the standard you might not see it perhaps? People with glasses/lenses can test this .. or with a huge dose of alcohol or such in their blood … or erm .. those having socialized a bit too much in the upper section .. or erm … having been stared down by Brown ..

  39. Alan James says:

    If anyone is having trouble seeing the circles then just try looking for the horizontal lines. For me it works just as easily even with one eye closed. The vertical lines fall into the background.

  40. Sally says:

    Enjoying the emerging circles! When I focus on the “x”, have seen all sorts of patterns emerging. Particularly, or most evidently, the horizontally-striped circles floating in front of a field of vertical stripes; then, the opposite: a vertical pattern – like a cut-out shape – floating in front of horizontal stripes; then the middle column and the one next to it part of a variety of designs popping out here and there. I found that when I looked at a smaller the computer screen, the image became tighter, and it was easier to see various patterns.

  41. […] Richard Wiseman has another fantastic illusion on his site: […]

  42. Yamabushi says:

    I see 25 circles

  43. suncrush says:

    None. I see no circles. I have been staring at it for 20 minutes.

  44. Techskeptic says:

    OT, I just wanted to tell you that you were an absolutely superstar at NECSS. It was a real pleasure to be in the audience with you there.

  45. Roadtripper says:

    This has got to be a joke. There are nothing but straight lines in that picture…no curves anywhere; therefore no circles.

    What the heck are you people talking about?


  46. Techskeptic says:

    weird some of you cant seethe circles. the ones that popped out first to me are on the right. Try to look slightly above the horizontal lines between two sets of boxes. you want to get that area in a peripheral view rather than look at it straight on. One you see them, they tend to stay.

    I can’t see all 16 at once, only vertical sets of 4 at a time.

  47. dan says:

    i see 16 circles.

  48. Tom says:

    I think that the reason the circles in the rightmost column are easiest to see is because of the dark line in the centre of each circle, with no matching dark line running perpendicular. The eye/brain latches on to the contrast, defining it as a boundary, and then proceeds to extend the boundary on either side.

    The horizontal lines in the circles in the other columns are either not as dark, or they meet up with similarly coloured vertical lines, and so the contrasting boundary is not so evident.

    Here’s something else: If I stare at the image long enough and relax, it gos from squares to Squares & circles to circles superimposed on vertical lines. Anyone else get this?

  49. Eric H. says:

    That how many circles illusion is great!

    As the same as many others at first I just could not see them, however I kept changing my focus and first the 4 circles in the right column appeared then shortly thereafter the rest of the circles appeared. Now I cannot go back to seeing the rectangles though. No matter how much I try I cannot see the rectangles for more than a fleeting moment.

  50. pete says:

    I saw 20, looking at it magic eye style.

  51. Ken_g6 says:

    I couldn’t see the circles for a couple of minutes, until I tried the out-of-focus trick. I can still see the rectangles alone everywhere but on the right side.

    For those who can’t see the circles, first realize that the circles are not directly on top of the rectangles, but rather between them vertically. Begin by looking at the right column of rectangles, and look for an inner rectangle with dark shading predominantly on the right. Now, look at the top of that inner rectangle. Note carefully how the white shading at the top is curved toward the bottom. Follow that curve up and around to the matching inner rectangle above it (in the next rectangular shape). Do you see the circle yet?

    It also appears that inside the circles all the lines are horizontal, while outside them all the lines are vertical. So find the edges of the regions filled with horizontal lines, and you’ll find the circles.

  52. ntsc says:

    No problem seeing 16 circles, with one or two eyes.

    However, I’ve worked in television for 34 years, where everything is made up of straight line segments, so I’m probably not a reasonable commenter.

  53. wev says:

    The floating square is immediately apparent to me but the circles took some work! Finally saw the ones on the right and, knowing where the rest must be, pulled them up. Column three was and is the least apparent. I am not sure I would see it at all without the association. My vote goes to the circles.

  54. cs says:

    I saw one, then 16, then an additional 9 for a total of 25. To be fair the additional 9 were partial circles, but easily extrapolated.

  55. Giles says:

    I don’t see any circles, maybe because I’m a socialist?

  56. chris says:

    I didn’t see any circles for a good 5 minutes. Then i read the comments. After figuring out where the circles should be (between the boxes vertically), all 16 immediately popped out. No left or right bias, they all just came. Now i can switch between them. Amazing how the brain works.

  57. Sridhar says:


    It is the emerging circles one for me, definitely.

    BTW, I think the size of the image is also important. When I was squinting into the thumbnail sized version of this, I did not see the circles seen here. I saw a DIFFERENT set of circles horizontally, between the panes.

  58. […] Richard Wiseman has another fantastic illusion on his site: […]

  59. […] From Bad Astronomy, who apparently stole it from Richard Wiseman’s site: […]

  60. […] but it’s not bad), so I wonder how the genders break down in seeing that particular illusion. Go take a look and leave a comment on Richard’s […]

  61. Merijn says:

    I see the circles with either eye and both, and after i’ve seen the circles, wherever i focus on my screen i keep seeing them, it’s a cool one

  62. […] het zijn er geen nul. Via Bad Astronomy kwam deze illusie bij Richard Wiseman […]

  63. Bryan Price says:

    I want the 15 minutes back that it took me to stare until I saw the circles!

    It takes effort for me to continue to see the circles. They show, the disappear just like that. :/

  64. Matt says:

    I saw the 16 circles pretty much instantly, but kept losing them and seeing them again.

    Really annoying!

  65. yerodretep says:

    Initially see 3 columns of rectangles and one on the rightmost column of circles, then shift my gaze and see the other circles, but they pop in & out of ‘existence’.

  66. Sunrea says:

    I’m afraid I didn’t get how the ’emerging circle’ one was an illusion until I actually stopped to look for the squares. The circles were apparent immediately to me and, after a few seconds of reading and looking, I noticed the ‘panels’. I find it truly amazing that eyes can be so different, since many comments say that people had a hard time finding the circles. I think they’re almost impossible not to see!

    The floating square was very cool, though. I always love that kind of illusion.

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  69. Anonymous says:

    all i can focus on is circles

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  71. Tim Cole says:

    No matter what I did, I couldn’t see any circles at all. I’d wondered about binocular vision myself, since my eyes need significantly different corrections, but closing an eye didn’t make any difference. I wonder if the problem is the visual aberrations I have because of keratoconus. In normal conditions, I can’t notice them, but for close work, it can be a real pain.

  72. Perhaps because of the way I scrolled downed the page, I saw the circles first. At least the ones on the top row.

  73. I also saw column number 4 first as well. then 1 then 2 then lastly, 3. I saw the circles almost immediately and for awhile couldnt focus my attention enough to see the “door” pattern, but after some deep staring it came back to me! it helps if i defocus my eyes a tad. I might note that even though column 3 was the last one I saw the circles in, it is the column that i find easiest to “interchange” – that is, switch between the circles and the door pattern. How fun!

  74. j-pro-skeptic says:

    Averted vision is the key. Focus on the center cross and the circles will pop up.

  75. […] Wiseman’s renowned for his good natured debunking of paranormal phenomena and he writes an exceptionally entertaining blog. As a psychology professor, Wiseman writes a lot about how human brains perceive the world around […]

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