What is Reality?


Our brains are easily tricked by simple drawings, pictures, and works of art. Sometimes we may see objects that are absent and other times, we may fail to see objects that are present. Our brain constructs our reality by taking in information collected from our senses and transforming them into a world based on its subjective perceptions. While the brain’s information processing system can be divided into two categories—conscious and unconscious—such division is not as neat and definitive as we might think it to be. The same neural machinery that interprets our sensory inputs also control our dreams and delusions, resulting in a disconnect between reality and our perception. General aspects of perception like sight, hearing, and touch have been modified by the brain’s automatic preprocessing. Because our brain expects certain objects, people, and events to behave and appear a particular way, it shapes your perception to fit those expectations. 

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This following picture is one I took in a Thailand art museum. It exhibits a type of illusion that represents depth, tricking the brain into thinking it is a 3-dimensional display when it actually is 2-dimensional. The use of depth in the display makes the bridge seem as if it were popping out. 

Visual illusions are detachments between the physical reality and the objective perception of an object or event. By exploring visual illusions, we are able to understand and learn more about how our brains interpret various objects and event. All visual illusions work by manipulating the automatic assumption function within the brain’s visual processing system. Nonetheless, with so many different types of visual illusions, each rely on a specific method to fool the brain. Some of the simpler visual illusions work by overstimulating the brain’s visual processing system, which results in an afterimage. Other illusions that involve high contrasts and emphasizing edges can cause dizzying effects for viewers. There are also visual illusions that involve imaginary motion. Characteristics such as color or object orientation causes us to perceive motion within the picture even when motion is not present. The eye is only able to see fine detail in a small portion of its visual field. As a result, the brain uses saccades, which are quick, automatic eye movements, to compensate for this limitation. As the eye jumps from one object to the next, it attempts to create a complete picture while the brain is confused by the alternate shading. After each saccade, the brain’s expectations of the viewed objects do not align. The impression of motion is then created as the brain assumes the position of the viewed objects have been shifted. 

Board Checker Illusion Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

Optical illusion: Nothing is moving here | Rоbsоn | Flickr

According to the research article, “Understanding human perception by human-made perceptions,” understanding how illusions work can allow us to grasp the limitations and potential of our perceptual apparatus. And although these illusions may seem to emphasize the malfunctions and limited capacity of our cognitive system, they underscore the complexity and efficiency of the brain’s ability to transform sensory inputs into interpretation and comprehension of current situations in a timely manner.

I have always been intrigued and fascinated by visual illusions, especially when viewing different artworks within this category. I desired to obtain more knowledge about how visual illusions are interpreted and perceived by our brains and how specific artistic qualities can cause the brain to perceive certain characteristics—color, shapes, and motion—that are not actually present. By exploring and learning about visual illusions, I am able to more effectively understand the how the brain functions and how it interprets and modifies sensory information.


1. Carbon C-C. Understanding human perception by human-made illusions. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 2014;8:566.

2. MacDonald M. How illusions hijack your brain – young coder – medium. Young Coder. 2019 Jan 8 [accessed 2021 Apr 29]. https://medium.com/young-coder/how-illusions-hijack-your-brain-a3dc1a223b03

3. psychneuro. What is reality?: The neuroscience of optical illusions and tricking our brains. Psych-neuro.com. 2015 Feb 27 [accessed 2021 Apr 29]. https://psych-neuro.com/2015/02/27/what-is-reality-the-neuroscience-of-optical-illusions-and-tricking-our-brain/

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