Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

2019 Best illusion of the Year Contest Winner

December 17, 2019

I really like optical illusions. And this is no exception …

The video above shows the top winner in the annual Illusion of the Year competition. It’s called the Dual Axis illusion by Frank Force. Is this shape spinning vertically or horizontally? You can’t tell, because it’s a 2D image, but your brain makes it seem one or the other, until visual cues help you change the orientation.

Mind spinning illusion

October 14, 2018

I really like optical illusions. And this is no exception …

Mind spinning illusion.jpg

See the image above, and how the shapes seem to move and slither around? It’s not a GIF or other type of animation — it’s 100 per cent static. In reality, your visual cortex is doing all the work.

If the image doesn’t appear to move for you, you’re probably not using a big enough screen (so those on mobile phones, basically). To get the proper effect, try looking at the image out of the corner of your eye, or view it on a PC monitor or TV. Learn more here.

A brief history of Fearing Change

June 9, 2018

“The past is a rich resource on which we can draw in order to make decisions for the future”
Nelson Mandela


The graph above highlights the past century of technology change we have seen and it reminded me of the way that we often respond to change.

Consider this timeline of human thought about historical changes in technology:

  • 370 BC: Writing is making us stupid.
  • 1005: Chess is banned in Egypt as it encourages gambling.
  • 1816: Kaleidoscopes are distracting people from the real world.
  • 1880: Bicycles are the most dangerous thing to life and property ever invented.
  • 1888: Novel reading is a ‘mischief’ like drinking. (1907: Too many novels are being read by young people)
  • 1895: X-rays will prove to be a hoax.
  • 1896: Excessive riding of bicycles induces insanity.
  • 1896: Horseless carriages (cars) lack the intelligence of a horse to guide their path.
  • 1904: Brain doctor warns of elongated brains from driving automobiles: “It remains to be proved how fast the brain is capable of traveling.”
  • 1914: Electric lights are keeping people up and addicted to ‘night life’.
  • 1926: Colour films will never take the place of black and white. What’s the point of Technicolor.
  • 1929: Talking films with gramophones will never beat silent films with live musicians.
  • 1936: Ban on radios in cars is urged for public safety.
  • 1938: Too much reading is harmful.
  • 1939: Kids are spending too much time listening to the radio and not enough time outside playing.
  • 1948: Comic books are turning children into murderers.
  • 1951: Telephones are killing love letters.
  • 1958: Teenagers are addicted to telephones
  • 1965: The abacus is better than a computer because it’s so much simpler.
  • 1976: Pocket calculators can’t beat the abacus.
  • 1977: Watching television causes brain damage
  • 1977: Cashless Society and electronic funds transfer will never be accepted.
  • 1982: Video games should be banned by law.
  • 1984: The Slide rule is as fast as a calculator and its batteries won’t run out.
  • 1984: Teaching children to program with computers will create a “culture of psychopaths” for a “meagre job market”.
  • 2018: Social media, smart phones, video games, etc., etc., etc.
  • 2030: Virtual Reality (VR) turns people into junkies.

Or in summary

Change In short.png

Finally, if you are still worried about our world today, I think a quick glimpse at some more data visualising the important progress we have made in the last two centuries is a good reminder that, really, everything is going just fine …

Two centuries of change.jpeg

(If you are interested, there are many, many more terrific graphs from Our World in Data.)

Why incompetent people think they’re amazing

November 12, 2017

How good are you with money? What about reading people’s emotions? How healthy are you, compared to other people you know? Knowing how our skills stack up against others is useful in many ways. But psychological research suggests that we’re not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately. In fact, we frequently overestimate our own abilities. David Dunning describes the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Winners of Best Illusion of 2016 Contest

July 2, 2016

I really like optical illusions. And the first and second place getter of Best Illusion of the Year Contest are no exceptions.

1st prize is – Motion Integration Unleashed: New Tricks for an Old Dog.

Little black and white dots that are stationary can give rise to dramatic global motion perceptions: a rotating square, oscillating chopsticks and rolling waves. Although the dots themselves are not changing position, the drifting motion within them causes the illusion that the entire configuration is moving!


They look like vertical cylinders, but their sections appear to be different; in one view they appear to be rectangles, while in the other view they appear to be circles. We cannot correct our interpretations although we logically know that they come from the same objects. Even if the object is rotated in front of a viewer, it is difficult to understand the true shape of the object, and thus the illusion does not disappear.

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

January 3, 2016

The search for happiness is an interesting one.

Fortunately, the longest ever study on happiness has a pretty simple answer for us …


How Can We Feel When Someone Is Staring At Us?

November 14, 2015

You know that feeling you get when you’re being stared at? Out of the corner of your eye, even outside your field of vision, you can just tell someone is checking you out, sizing you up, or trying to make eye contact with you. Sometimes it almost feels like ESP, this ability to detect another person stare, because it often comes at the fringes of our awareness.


But far from being ESP, the perception originates from a system in the brain that’s devoted just to detecting where others are looking. This “gaze detection” system is especially sensitive to whether someone’s looking directly at you (for example, whether someone’s staring at you or at the clock just over your shoulder). Studies that record the activity of single brain cells find that particular cells fire when someone is staring right at you, but—amazingly—not when the observer’s gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (then different cells fire instead).

This specialized machinery in the brain reveals just how important your gaze is when communicating with others. Where you look conveys how you feel and what your intentions are, what you like and what you don’t like, and directs attention to meaningful things in the environment. Further, making direct eye contact is the most frequent and perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we exchange with others; it’s central to intimacy, intimidation, and social influence. Learn more here.

Four perfect circles – really!

July 12, 2015

I really like optical illusions.

And this picture of four perfectly round circles is no exception. Our mind does like to play tricks on us!

Four circles

Best Illusion of the Year for 2015 Announced

June 18, 2015

I really like optical illusions.

The illusion above is called Splitting Colors. You can read an explanation of it here. It was crowned the winner of the annual Best Illusion of the Year Contest for 2015. Coming in second was Ambiguous Garage Roof.

Do we see reality as it is?

June 14, 2015

Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman is trying to answer a big question: Do we experience the world as it really is … or as we need it to be?