25 Incredible Optical Illusions

Posted by on November 16, 2011

Things aren’t always the way they appear. Although our mind is constantly trying to make sense of the world around us it can sometimes get a little out of control and make us start to see things…literally. While, some of the optical illusions on our list are relatively famous, others are a bit more obscure but all of them give us a glimpse into our amazingly complex minds. There is no magic involved, no strings attached, its all in your head. Here we go.

Rotating Rings

If you stare at the dot in the center and move your head away from the screen the rings will start to rotate. Now gradually get closer again…they change direction!


Hermann Grid

This is a classic illusion named after Ludimar Hermann who discovered it in 1870. At every point where the white lines intersect our eyes perceive a gray, shadowy blob. If you look directly at one of the intersections though, the blob disappears.


Fading Image

Stare at the image for about half a minute without moving your eyes and watch as it gradually disappears. This is a variation of Troxler’s effect which essentially says that if you fixate your eyes on a certain point, stimuli near that point will gradually fade.


Kanizsa Triangle

The Kanizsa Triangle was named after the psychologist Gaetano Kanizsa who first described its effect. When you look at the image your brain creates contours (outlines) of a triangle although none exist. In reality it is an illusion created by the the wedges and the angles.



This is a rather famous illusion of an impossible object. It has two rectangular prongs at one end that morph into three cylindrical prongs at the other.


Monster Illusion

Found in virtually every psychology textbook in the world, the two monsters in this illusion are in fact the same size. Your brain automatically adjusts images that it perceives to be distant in order to compensate for the fact that they are larger than they seem.


Jastrow Illusion

Named after Robert Jastrow in 1889, the bottom figure appears to be larger although they are both the same size. This is because the shorter edge of “A” is directly adjacent to the longer edge of “B”.


Fraser Spiral

First described by British psychologist James Fraser in 1908, this illusion is also known as the “false spiral”. While it appears that the overlapping arcs are spiralling into infinity they are in fact only a series of concentric circles.


Scintillating Grid

This is a variation of the Hermann Grid where black dots appear and disappear at the intersections of the gray lines. Interestingly enough, if you cock your head at a 45 degree angle the effect is reduced (but not eliminated).


Blue vs Green

There are several variations to this illusion but the effect is the same. The “blue” and “green” backgrounds are in fact the same color (open it in photoshop).


Endless Staircase

This is a variation of the endless staircase illusion constructed out of legos. Like the the blivet, this is also an impossible object and is sometimes called the “Penrose triangle”.


Black on White

Stare at the center of the image for about 30 seconds and then look away at a preferably white surface (sometimes the ceiling works). What do you see?


Zöllner Illusion

This illusion was named after Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner and consists of parallel lines that appear to be diagonal. You may need a ruler for this one.


Hering Illusion

Although the two red lines seem to be bowed outwards they are perfectly straight and parallel. This illusion is attributed to Ewald Hering, a German physiologist who believed that the distortion was derived from the mind overestimating the angles at the points of intersection.


Titchener Circles

Also known as the Ebbinghaus Illusion, there is still a debate in psychological circles as to the exact mechanism and implication of this effect. Essentially, however, the orange circle on the left appears to be smaller than the one on the right although in reality they are the same size.

David Pegg


After helping found the United Nations, the United States, and United Airlines, David consigned himself to a transient life of writing lists and sleeping on park benches.

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  • Austin

    3 is definitely a .gif image. I’m on an iPad, and it stopped when I saved it into pictures, and also when I put a finger on the screen.

    • cameron

      It is supposed to be a gif, the point was never that it wasn’t. The point is if you stare at the center for long enough the pink dots will seems as if they disappear although they do not. It works better if it is larger.

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  • Dude

    Ouuuu, ahhhhh

  • jer Davis

    I stared at the b/w blob, looked at a white background n saw a Smiley face.
    #1 is the shadow illusion i believe. saw this on some show . Good info on how r brains n eyes process images.

    • greg

      shut up you dirty slope.

  • Drew

    The left arm/right arm thing blows me away… would take a while to wrap my mind around how that could work…

    For those saying it’s actually changing direction, why then can I make it change whenever I want to?

    Covering up everything (including the reflections) except for the feet and lower legs is what got it working for me… just now had it changing directions several times a second, sorta flickering back and forth — sweet illusion!

  • eddie

    the spinning silhouette spins both ways. it changes at random intervals. if u look closely, u can see a little flicker in the animation and that’s when it reverses its spin.

    • Cameron

      You are incorrect Eddie. It spins both ways the exact same time at all times. It is just how your brain perceives it.

  • trippyshit

    The spinning silhouette goes in the direction your mind wants it to, look at the foot that’s lowest and think its going left or right and it will do it.

  • Amanda

    If you look at the spinning lady long enough she does a sudden stop and changes direction.