Somewhat related: I think we do have a 3D map of the environment even for things that we aren't looking at at the moment. For example I feel as if I had a device in my brain that keeps track of which people are in which parts of the house right now (or where some emotionally-loaded objects are). I don't have to exert conscious effort specifically for this.

Another thing: it's interesting to think about why we can see dots and lines and shapes at all. By this I mean, why do these low-level things reach our conscious awareness? You aren't consciously aware of your blood sugar level or hormone levels. You do feel a sort of aggregated well-being feeling consciously but the details don't reach the conscious level. It's a strange and bizarre thing to think about what vision could be like if our consciousness didn't have access to dots and shapes and colors style low-level image data and we only "felt" the gist of it, for example by only feeling our current 3D model in some way. (It could be similar to blindsight.)

One answer could be that our vision is so complicated that the unconscious parts just can't cope with it fully, they can't analyze it sufficiently, and conscious processes (evolutionarily recent brain parts) need access to the basic "pixel-data" like things as well.

But again, maybe when we intentionally try to look at specific dots (as if looking at pixels, interpreting the visual field as a screen), we maybe aren't really looking at the low-level input but rather a reconstruction. Maybe we are seeing lines, corners and other geometric primitives laid on top of one another, like an SVG image, not like a BMP image. Maybe we don't really have conscious access to the low-level visual signals, we just have access to a reconstruction.

I don't think neuroscience has found out these things already, but it should be possible to read off of connections of brain areas.

Somewhat related: I think we do have a 3D map of the environment even for things that we aren't looking at at the moment.

I do not appear to have that - or, at least, I don't get much use out of it if it's in here. While I can keep track of who is where in the house, I do so more in the form of a list of Last Known Locations, not in any sort of map (2D or 3D).

Possibly related - I am notorious for getting lost easily while driving, and can get very badly turned around if I am merely a short distance away from where I should be. I tend to navigate by memor... (read more)

Bizarre Illusions

by MrHen 1 min read27th Jan 2010310 comments


grey square illusion
Illusions are cool. They make me think something is happening when it isn't. When offered the classic illusion pictured to the right, I wonder at the color of A and B. How weird, bizarre, and incredible.

Today I looked at the above illusion and thought, "Why do I keep thinking A and B are different colors? Obviously, something is wrong with how I am thinking about colors." I am being stupid when my I look at this illusion and I interpret the data in such a way to determine distinct colors. My expectations of reality and the information being transmitted and received are not lining up. If they were, the illusion wouldn't be an illusion.

The number 2 is prime; the number 6 is not. What about the number 1? Prime is defined as a natural number with exactly two divisors. 1 is an illusionary prime if you use a poor definition such as, "Prime is a number that is only divisible by itself and 1." Building on these bad assumptions could result in all sorts of weird results much like dividing by 0 can make it look like 2 = 1. What a tricky illusion!

An optical illusion is only bizarre if you are making a bad assumption about how your visual system is supposed to be working. It is a flaw in the Map, not the Territory. I should stop thinking that the visual system is reporting RGB style colors. It isn't. And, now that I know this, I am suddenly curious about what it is reporting. I have dropped a bad belief and am looking for a replacement. In this case, my visual system is distinguishing between something else entirely. Now that I have the right answer, this optical illusion should become as uninteresting as questioning whether 1 is prime. It should stop being weird, bizarre, and incredible. It merely highlights an obvious reality.

Addendum: This post was edited to fix a few problems and errors. If you are at all interested in more details behind the illusion presented here, there are a handful of excellent comments below.