Historical Reprints Science Visual Illusions

Visual Illusions

Visual Illusions
Catalog # SKU3533
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name M. Luckiesh
ISBN 10: 1610338219
ISBN 13: 9781610338219


Visual Illusions

Causes, Characteristics
and Applications

Large Print - 17 pt font

M. Luckiesh

Scientific literature yields a great many valuable discussions from theoretical and experimental viewpoints but much of the material is controversial. The practical aspects of visual illusions have been quite generally passed by and, inasmuch as there does not appear to be a volume available which treats the subject in a condensed manner but with a broad scope, this small volume is contributed toward filling the gap.



The extreme complexity of the subject is recognized, but an attempt toward simplicity of treatment has been made by confining the discussion chiefly to static visual illusions, by suppressing minor details, and by subordinating theory. In other words, the intent has been to emphasize experimental facts. Even these are so numerous that only the merest glimpses of various aspects can be given in order to limit the text to a small volume. Some theoretical aspects of the subject are still extremely controversial, so they are introduced only occasionally and then chiefly for the purpose of illustrating the complexities and the trends of attempted explanations. Space does not even admit many qualifications which may be necessary in order to escape criticism entirely.

The visual illusions discussed are chiefly of the static type, although a few others have been introduced. Some of the latter border upon motion, others upon hallucinations, and still others produced by external optical media are illusions only by extension of the term. These exceptions are included for the purpose of providing glimpses into the borderlands.

It is hoped that this condensed discussion, which is ambitious only in scope, will be of interest to the general reader, to painters, decorators, and architects, to lighting experts, and to all interested in light, color, and vision. It is an essential supplement to certain previous works.


SEEING is deceiving. Thus a familiar epigram may be challenged in order to indicate the trend of this book which aims to treat certain phases of visual illusions. In general, we do not see things as they are or as they are related to each other; that is, the intellect does not correctly interpret the deliverances of the visual sense, although sometimes the optical mechanism of the eyes is directly responsible for the illusion.

In other words, none of our conceptions and perceptions are quite adequate, but fortunately most of them are satisfactory for practical purposes. Only a part of what is perceived comes through the senses from the object; the remainder always comes from within. In fact, it is the visual sense or the intellect which is responsible for illusions of the various types to be discussed in the following chapters. Our past experiences, associations, desires, demands, imaginings, and other more or less obscure influences create illusions.

An illusion does not generally exist physically but it is difficult in some cases to explain the cause. Certainly there are many cases of errors of judgment. A mistaken estimate of the distance of a mountain is due to an error of judgment but the perception of a piece of white paper as pink on a green background is an error of sense. It is realized that the foregoing comparison leads directly to one of the most controversial questions in psychology, but there is no intention on the author's part to cling dogmatically to the opinions expressed. In fact, discussions of the psychological judgment involved in the presentations of the visual sense are not introduced with the hope of stating the final word but to give the reader an idea of the inner process of perception. The final word will be left to the psychologists but it appears possible that it may never be formulated.

In general, a tree appears of greater length when standing than when lying upon the ground. Lines, areas, and masses are not perceived in their actual physical relations. The appearance of a colored object varies considerably with its environment. The sky is not perceived as infinite space nor as a hemispherical dome, but as a flattened vault. The moon apparently diminishes in size as it rises toward the zenith. A bright object appears larger than a dark object of the same physical dimensions. Flat areas may appear to have a third dimension of depth. And so on.

Illusions are so numerous and varied that they have long challenged the interest of the scientist. They may be so useful or even so disastrous that they have been utilized or counteracted by the skilled artist or artisan. The architect and painter have used or avoided them. The stage-artist employs them to carry the audience in its imagination to other environments or to far countries. The magician has employed them in his entertainments and the camoufleur used them to advantage in the practice of deception during the recent war. They are vastly entertaining, useful, deceiving, or disastrous, depending upon the viewpoint. Incidentally, a few so-called illusions will be discussed which are not due strictly to errors of the visual sense or of the intellect.

Examples of these are the mirage and certain optical effects employed by the magician. In such cases neither the visual sense nor the intellect errs. In the case of the mirage rays of light coming from the object to the eye are bent from their usual straight-line course and the object appears to be where it really is not. However, with these few exceptions, which are introduced for their specific interest and for the emphasis they give to the "true" illusion, it will be understood that illusions in general as hereinafter discussed will mean those due to the visual mechanism or to errors of judgment or intellect. For the sake of brevity we might say that they are those due to errors of visual perception. Furthermore, only those of a "static" type will be considered; that is, the vast complexities due to motion are not of interest from the viewpoint of the aims of this book.

There are two well-known types of misleading perceptions, namely illusions and hallucinations. If, for example, two lines appear of equal length and are not, the error in judgment is responsible for what is termed an "illusion." If the perceptual consciousness of an object appears although the object is not present, the result is termed an "hallucination." For example, if something is seen which does not exist, the essential factors are supplied by the imagination. Shadows are often wrought by the imagination into animals and even human beings bent upon evil purpose.

Ghosts are created in this manner. Hallucinations depend largely upon the recency, frequency, and vividness of past experience. A consideration of this type of misleading perception does not advance the aims of this book and therefore will be omitted.

400 pages - 7x 8½ softcover
ISBN-10 1610338219
ISBN-13 9781610338219

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