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Illusion Chasers

Illusion Chasers


Illusions, Delusions, and Everyday Deceptions
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Illusion of the Week: Legos and M&M’s Bulge Illusion.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Image credit: Mary Coffelt, Briena Heller, and Michael McCamy, Martinez-Conde and Macknik Laboratories, Barrow Neurological Institute

If you’ve ever played with Legos, you know that they’re all about straight lines and 90-degree corners. Not in this version of Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s “Bulge” illusion, created by Mary Coffelt, Briena Heller, and Michael McCamy in our laboratories last summer. The strategically placed purple and white M&Ms distort your perception of the Lego checkerboard, making it bulge out.

To see the illusion disappear with a single breath, watch this video.

Read more about shape distortion illusions and their neural bases in our Illusions column

Susana Martinez-Conde About the Author: Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik are laboratory directors at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Follow on Twitter @illusionchasers.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. jtdwyer 8:06 am 01/9/2014

    Nice! However, clearing the board in the video takes two breaths…

    Link to this
  2. 2. Gorden Russell 2:02 am 01/10/2014

    I just can’t figure this out.

    If you run your eyes up slowly from square to square, you see that they are all the same size and shape. But if you sit back and look at the whole thing…

    Link to this
  3. 3. marycoffelt4 5:52 pm 05/8/2014

    This was such a fun project to work on! I learned so much at Barrow Neurological Institute under Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde’s lab as their student research intern.

    http://marycoffelt.brandyourself.com/

    Link to this

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