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Fooling Around with your Mind – using mirrors to confuse your brain (an optical illusion experiment).

Phantom limb illusion which occurs after a limb has been amputated

Using mirrors to confuse your brain

Our eyes see everything going on around us. The eyes send this information to our brain, which interprets the information it is given. Sometimes the brain has to fudge a little when making these interpretations. This is especially true when our eyes see something that the brain knows cannot be true.  In cases like this, the brain interprets the information the best it can and may feel slightly confused…

  1. Glue the two mirrors together, back-to-back.
  2. Glue the ends of two dowels to the mirrors, one on each side.  Be sure to glue the dowels in the center of the mirror.  These will be our ‘handles’.
  3. Hold the mirror in front of you, slightly to one side, by grasping a dowel in each hand.
  4. Look into one side of the mirror while twisting the hand that is on the other side of the mirror (the hand on the opposite side of the mirror you are looking into).

It feels pretty weird, doesn’t it?  Your eyes see your hand holding the dowel in one hand and a reflection of that same hand in the mirror.  Your mind interprets the reflection of the hand as the real thing.  While you are twisting the dowel in the other hand, the brain feels the twisting motion and expects to see that hand moving.  When it doesn’t move, the mind gets confused.

Now you understand the logic behind this common advice: ‘Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see’…

How optical illusions fool the brain

Optical illusions are things that trick our brains into seeing something that isn’t there or misinterpreting what is actually present. These illusions occur because our brain is trying to make sense of the world around us, but sometimes it can be tricked into seeing things that don’t exist or interpreting things incorrectly.

One way that optical illusions fool the brain is by taking advantage of the brain’s tendency to fill in gaps in our visual perception. When we see an image, our brain automatically tries to fill in the gaps and make sense of what we are seeing. This is why we are able to recognize objects even if they are partially hidden or obscured. However, optical illusions can take advantage of this tendency by presenting an image that is missing information or has conflicting information, causing the brain to fill in the gaps with incorrect information.

Another way that optical illusions fool the brain is by manipulating our depth perception. Our brain uses various cues, such as size, texture, and position, to determine how far away objects are from us. However, optical illusions can manipulate these cues, making objects appear closer or farther away than they actually are. This can cause our brain to misinterpret the size or shape of an object, leading to an optical illusion.

Finally, optical illusions can also fool the brain by taking advantage of our expectations. Our brain is constantly making predictions about what we should be seeing based on past experience and context. Optical illusions can take advantage of these expectations by presenting an image that goes against what we would normally expect to see, causing our brain to perceive something that isn’t actually there.

Our magnificent brain

The brain is the master control center of the body. The brain constantly receives information from the senses about conditions both inside the body and outside it. The brain rapidly analyzes this information and then sends out messages that control body functions and actions. The brain also stores information from past experience, which makes learning and remembering possible. In addition, the brain is the source of thoughts, moods, and emotions.

In such simple animals as worms and insects, the brain consists of small groups of nerve cells. All animals with a backbone have a complicated brain made up of many parts. Animals that have an exceptionally well-developed brain include apes, dolphins, and whales. Human beings have the most highly developed brain of all. It consists of billions of interconnected cells and enables people to use language, solve difficult problems, and create works of art.

Required supplies for the Fooling Around with your Mind experiment

Supplies: Mirror, Wooden dowel

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

Phantom limb illusion which occurs after a limb has been amputated via Wikimedia Commons by Golan Levin with usage type - Creative Commons License. June 8, 2013

Featured Image Credit

Phantom limb illusion which occurs after a limb has been amputated via Wikimedia Commons by Golan Levin with usage type - Creative Commons License. June 8, 2013

 

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