Wonderful new illusion


It is not often that a new and wonderful illusion comes along….. and then, when it does happen, three come along at once. Here are three silencing illusions. Play the following videos while looking at the dot in the centre of the circle. Basically, the various changes are obvious at first, but when the circle of dots rotate, the changes vanish. Here is one using colour….

Then there is one using size….

and shape…

What do you think?

50 comments on “Wonderful new illusion

  1. RyderDA says:

    I had to watch each several times to understand what the illusion was. Even when they rotate, I still see the colours/symbols/size change. I had to squint to “not” see them change.

  2. Israel Girón says:

    Took me a while to get the fist one…I think I understand why it happens but I can’t be sure…

  3. CanadianChick says:

    Me too – the colour version was the least obvious to me, but there was no doubt that things were still changing even during the rotation.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Wiseman, Richard Prins and Andrea Daly. Andrea Daly said: Wonderful new illusion http://bit.ly/fX6dTR #RichardWiseman […]

  5. WayneDV says:

    There’s a missing instruction. You’re meant to focus on the little white dot in the centre of the image. No need to squint, just make sure that you’re looking at the centre point at all times,

    • Geoff says:

      “Play the following videos while looking at the dot in the centre of the circle.”

    • WayneDV says:

      There’s a missing instruction. “Read the instructions” should be at the top of the page😀. Thanks Geoff!

      I skimmed down the page, look at the illusions and then read the complaints in the comments. tsk tsk to me!

  6. Kevin says:

    WayneDV got it right. Look at the centre of the images as they rotate, not at the dots.

    That’s the amazing thing, when you look at the centre of the images they appear not to change, but when you look at the individual dots you can still see them changing. Wow

  7. Not working for me – the patterns continue to change in much the same way before and after rotation. Perhaps I’m looking to hard at the peripheral image even though I’m trying to concentrate on the dot? Of could distance from monitor be a factor?

    • Kevin says:

      The difference is not seen before and after rotation, but rather whilst rotating and whilst still…

  8. Nadia says:

    Doesn’t work. Very silly.

  9. lilabyrd says:

    Hmm the first two didn’t work for me even looking at the center dot, but the last one worked great…..wonder why? Maybe I’ll put on my glasses and try.

  10. Paul Durrant says:

    All three work for me. A an excellent discovery.

  11. David Mathew says:

    Sorry if I’m being slow, but what are we supposed to see?

    • Superdave says:

      In the first one, while the rotation happens the coloured dots are still changing colour, although you might not be able to see this unless you focus on the outer ring.

  12. Superdave says:

    They all worked for me first time, then I watched again just looking at the outer ring then again at the centre whilst trying to see the changes and it worked! seems I can de-sensitise my reticular activating system. Or something.
    In evolutionary terms there is an obvious advantage to prioritising sensing movement over changes in colour: defensively, seeing a movement could equal being stalked by a predator, offensively, it could equal dinner.
    There is also a peripheral vision effect, where we have a clearer focus directly in front of us (90 degrees to the retina if you’re being pedantic) than to the extremes at the side, so getting closer to the screen helps the illusion.
    I prefer the ‘hidden g……’ version where you concentrate on one movement at the expense of another http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    Finally, I wonder if there is a difference between the effectiveness of the illusion between men and women? My guess is it is less effective on women as they tend to have better peripheral vision and multitasking ability for evolutionary reasons (and are smarter!).

  13. Michael says:

    I saw these a few days ago, and they work for me mostly and only if I focus on the white spot. I wager I might perceive something untoward even when holding gaze if the motion phase were longer.

    The original research paper (preprint) and demos, which, ahem, Richard really should have linked to is at http://visionlab.harvard.edu/silencing/ .

    J. Suchow and G. Alvarez, Motion Silences Awareness of Visual Change, Current Biology (2011); DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.019

  14. Kya-chan says:

    This would probably work a hell of a lot better for me if I had a decent internet connection so the videos weren’t jumpy.

  15. Charles Sullivan says:

    Put down the pipe, Richard.

  16. They work. Despite what some people are saying.


    The effect lacks the surprise value of a really great illusion. It makes perfect sense that it would work, so it’s not the least bit surprising when it does.

    • Geoff says:

      Why ‘would’ it work?

      Why would you think, ‘When these move you probably won’t be able to tell they’re still changing in size/colour/shape”?

    • Geoff:

      When they’re stationary, the fact that they are stationary helps you to keep track of which object is which. For example, when object X changes from red to yellow, you know it’s still object X because it’s in the same place.

      When they’re moving, you don’t have that hint. It’s too hard for the brain to keep track of which object is which, because they’re all changing both their positions and properties at the same time, and as individuals they get lost in the crowd.

      So the brain stops trying, thinking to itself, “Meh. It’s a swarm of objects. That’s all I need to know.” And because it’s not keeping track of objects individually anymore, it doesn’t notice when they change.

    • Geoff says:

      Interesting. Thanks.

  17. Tomas says:

    It works a lot better when watching them in full screen mode (for me). I suppose it has to do with visual “focus”.

  18. Al says:

    The size one doesn’t work for me, the other two do though. I have an idea of what’s going on…

  19. stephen2barnes@btinternet.com says:

    Watched each a number of times, and I can’t see the ‘illusion’. Maybe it’s an experiment in ‘suggestion’ and not an optical illusion…..

  20. Geoff says:

    All three excellent. I didn’t believe the changes were still happening whilst the movement was taking place, but if you focus on the objects instead of the dot during the movement, you can see they definitely are.

    The changing appears to stop pretty much completely when I focus on the dot. Very weird, and impressive. I wonder what effect this might have in real life, on things like reliability of witnesses as to colours of moving cars, or something.

    Thanks Richard🙂

  21. Ah, OK – got it now thanks. Covering up part of the screen with a piece of paper while the circle rotates makes it more obvious that the dots continue to change.

    I think some people see the dots changing wile the circle moves which is why they’re wondering whether this is an illusion at all.

  22. Anna says:

    Really cool. Worked for me. I could see a little bit of the color and movement during the rotation after a second viewing (probably because I knew what I was looking for) but mostly it still works.

  23. Alek says:

    i even get the effect to a small degree while looking at the changing circles themselveds, rather than the center dot.

  24. Wabasso says:

    The shape illusion was the least effective for me, with the colors being the most effective. I viewed them in order, from top to bottom.

  25. Flavio says:

    My aswareness was a little tricked but I definitely was still seeing changes in the moving dots.

  26. Steve Ulven says:

    I saw this yesterday on New Scientist’s YouTube page. I didn’t quite understand it until I read the blog they linked. Actually, still not quite sure I do, but it is fascinating.

  27. Mark says:

    Obviously the changes can still be seen during the rotation. What interests me is that, even when you know exactly what’s going on and know what to look for, the changes appear to me to slow down quite a lot during rotation. I had to look very carefully to confirm that the changes were happening at the same rate with and without rotation.

  28. Jim Allen says:

    Works for me. Pretty cool. The changes are not obvious while the circle rotates. I had to keep my eye on a particular object during the rotation to prove to myself it was indeed changing at the same frequency as when they were all staying still.

  29. namowal says:

    Neat stuff.
    What would happen if the halo was made up of changing words instead of shapes and colors?

  30. fluffy says:

    I first saw this the other day directly on YouTube with a nice big video window, and it worked quite well. The itty-bitty practically-thumbnail-size videos on here, however, have too much of the stuff right in the center of vision, and so the illusion doesn’t work.

    I really recommend clicking on the video to go to the YouTube page, and maybe even watching it full-screen.

  31. dmabus says:

    an example and warning of the fate of those who try to divide people….


    At least we’re on the same page…

    Serves Em Right, eh, Randi….


  32. Sari1967 says:

    The top 2 show the illusion better than the bottom one but they work really well

  33. dmabus says:

    we’re stopping TIME and you’re playing with COLORS…..

  34. Worked for me, in full-screen mode.

    Does the motion have to be particularly busy for the illusion to work? I expect the effect would be weaker if, instead of back-and-forth rotation, the dots were moved at a constant rate around the circle. Would it work even better if the dots weren’t all moving together (say, bands of different angular speeds, or blocks moving randomly around the screen)?

    I suspect it’s also a perceptually-gradient phenomenon. By the end of the motion portion of each video, I was pretty sure I could detect the changes in the dots, but it was certainly less obvious than in the non-motion portions.

    So: gradient perceptual illusion, probably responsive to gradient differences in the complexity of the dots’ motions.

  35. The other Matt says:

    I think its a phenomen that was let us survive when we were primitive humans in the past. It was not so important to guess the color changing of our food (Nuts, fruits…) or jewelry, but more important that somebody move and rolling away them and at least will steal them ! In quiet times we could watching then the colour changing…

  36. […] Wonderful new illusion It is not often that a new and wonderful illusion comes along….. and then, when it does happen, three come along at […] […]

  37. liam.c.russell@gmail.com says:

    I can *just* detect the changes as the graphics are rotating – maybe my brain works faster than others’?

  38.   says:

    Stupid. Or, if I’m trying a bit to be nice, I don’t get it. I can’t NOT see the movement or color changes in these. I’ve tried full screen, squinting, and concentrating like mad. Nothing special.

  39. Nick Andrew says:

    I guess the brain prioritises movement modeling over colour discrimination.

  40. herk says:

    the last one does not seem to work as well as the first two. Amazing though!

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