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Title: Illusion  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Perception, Animation, Chromostereopsis, Optical illusion, Performing arts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


"Head on a Platter" exhibit at the Regional Science Centre, Bhopal

An illusion is a distortion of the Gestalt theory), an individual's capacity for depth perception and motion perception, and perceptual constancy. Other illusions occur because of biological sensory structures within the human body or conditions outside of the body within one’s physical environment.

The term illusion refers to a specific form of sensory distortion. Unlike a hallucination, which is a distortion in the absence of a stimulus, an illusion describes a misinterpretation of a true sensation. For example, hearing voices regardless of the environment would be a hallucination, whereas hearing voices in the sound of running water (or other auditory source) would be an illusion.

Mimes are known for a repertoire of illusions that are created by physical means. The mime artist creates an illusion of acting upon or being acted upon by an unseen object. These illusions exploit the audience's assumptions about the physical world. Well-known examples include "walls", "climbing stairs", "leaning", "descending ladders", and "pulling and pushing".

Optical illusions

An optical illusion. Square A is exactly the same shade of grey as Square B. (See Checker shadow illusion.)

An optical illusion is characterized by [3][4] This way in which our brain works is the basis of an illusion.

Auditory illusions

An auditory illusion is an illusion of Shepard tone.

Tactile illusions

Examples of tactile illusions include phantom limb, the thermal grill illusion, the cutaneous rabbit illusion and a curious illusion that occurs when the crossed index and middle fingers are run along the bridge of the nose with one finger on each side, resulting in the perception of two separate noses. Interestingly, the brain areas activated during illusory tactile perception are similar to those activated during actual tactile stimulation.[5] Tactile illusions can also be elicited through haptic technology.[6] These "illusory" tactile objects can be used to create "virtual objects".[7]

Temporal illusions

Temporal illusions can occur in many ways.

Other senses

Illusions can occur with the other senses including those involved in food perception. Here both sound[8] and touch[9] have been shown to modulate the perceived staleness and crispness of food products. It was also discovered that even if some portion of the taste receptor on the tongue became damaged that illusory taste could be produced by tactile stimulation.[10] Evidence of olfactory (smell) illusions occurred when positive or negative verbal labels were given prior to olfactory stimulation.[11]


Some illusions occur as result of an illness or a disorder. While these types of illusions are not shared with everyone, they are typical of each condition. For example migraine sufferers often report fortification illusions.


In an experiment with one patient, electrical stimulation at the left temporoparietal junction lead to an illusion of another person close to her.[12][13]

In Hindu philosophy

The word "illusion" is used to denote different aspects in Hindu philosophy. Many monist philosophies clearly demarcate illusion from truth and falsehood. Per advaita philosophy, illusion is something which is not true and not false. Whereas in general usage it is common to assume that illusion is false, Hindu philosophy makes a distinction between Maya (illusion) and falsehood.

See also

Not related to senses (cognitive illusions)


  1. ^ Solso, R. L. (2001). Cognitive psychology (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0-205-30937-2
  2. ^ McGurk,Hj. & MacDonald, J.(1976). "Hearing lips and seeing voices", Nature 264, 746-748.
  3. ^ Yoon Mo Jung and Jackie (Jianhong) Shen (2008), J. Visual Comm. Image Representation, 19(1):42-55, First-order modeling and stability analysis of illusory contours.
  4. ^ Yoon Mo Jung and Jackie (Jianhong) Shen (2014), arXiv:1406.1265, Illusory shapes via phase transition.
  6. ^ Robles-De-La-Torre & Hayward 2001
  7. ^ The Cutting Edge of Haptics (MIT Technology Review article)
  8. ^ Zampini M & Spence C (2004) "The role of auditory cues in modulating the perceived crispness and staleness of potato chips" Journal of Sensory Studies 19, 347-363.
  9. ^ Barnett-Cowan M (2010) "An illusion you can sink your teeth into: Haptic cues modulate the perceived freshness and crispness of pretzels" Perception 39, 1684-1686.
  10. ^ Todrank, J & Bartoshuk, L.M., 1991
  11. ^ Herz R. S. & Von Clef J., 2001
  12. ^ Arzy S, Seeck M, Ortigue S, Spinelli L & Blanke O. Induction of an illusory shadow person. Nature 2006; 443:287.
  13. ^ Hopkin, Michael (20 September 2006), "Brain Electrodes Conjure up Ghostly Visions", Nature,  

External links

  • Universal Veiling Techniques
  • What is an Illusion? by J.R. Block.
  • Optical illusions and visual phenomena by Michael Bach
  • Auditory illusions
  • Haptic Perception of Shape - touch illusions, forces and the geometry of objects, by Gabriel Robles-De-La-Torre.
  • Silencing awareness of visual change by motion
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