This Mind-Bending Optical Illusion Actually Has 16 Circles Hidden In Plain Sight

People on the internet are baffled after viewing this mind-boggling optical illusion that has gone viral on the internet.

In the illusion known as the ‘Coffer Illusion’, at first glance, you can see coffers, the sunken panels that often decorate ceilings, especially in churches and temples. But once you keep looking at it for while you can see 16 circles that were hidden in plain sight in front of your very eyes which deceived you at first.

Although after you see them, the enchanting image keeps messing with your eyes as it appears to switch back and forth between the two shapes.

The Coffer Illusion was brought into existence in 2006 by Anthony Norcia, an esteemed professor of psychology and visual development at Stanford University in California. In his research, Professor Norcia conducted an experiment where he presented the image to approximately 100 individuals.

On average, it took them 45 seconds to perceive the hidden circles. However, he noted that some observers took significantly longer, while others swiftly noticed the circles within a mere 10 to 15 seconds.

‘First time viewers of this display invariable do not see the 16 circles segmented from the background,’ said Professor Norcia.

‘Rather, they see a series of rectangles that they frequently describe as “door panels”.

‘The illusion pits segmentation cues against what appears to be a very strong prior [knowledge] to interpret the image as a series of 3D structures coffers with closed boundaries.’

Since being shared by Massimo Orgiazzi, an engineer based in Italy, the Coffer Illusion has gained traction on Twitter. It appears that there is a general consensus that it takes some time for people to discern the circles, which cleverly reside amidst the rectangles.

One Twitter user said: ‘Took a second and I had to do that weird thing with my eyes to see those hidden pictures from those posters in the 90s.’

Another said: ‘I see them, I see them. Once you see them, it feels so much better.’

Another user on Twitter said of the hidden circles: ‘I’ve looked at it for a full, intense 10 minutes, but unfortunately I couldn’t see them.’

This illusion capitalizes on the tendency of our visual brain to prioritize object recognition. Specifically, our minds are inclined to identify familiar shapes, such as engraved wooden panels, which is the case with this particular illusion.

Given that rectangles are more prevalent than circles in our everyday surroundings, our brains may be predisposed to perceive rectangular forms more readily.

There is another well-known optical illusion called the ‘expanding hole,’ created by Akiyoshi Kitaoka from Ritsumeikan University in Kobe, Japan.

When we observe this illusion, the black area in the center of the image appears to grow larger, as if it is moving into a dark space like a tunnel or falling into a hole. Professor Kitaoka has gained recognition for designing various optical illusions, including the famous rotating snakes illusion and the ‘Asahi’ brightness illusion.

In the Asahi illusion, the central portion appears brighter than the surrounding white background, even though the white color is the same throughout.

Optical illusions are effective because our eyes and brains communicate using a simple language, akin to that of a child with a limited vocabulary, as explained by experts at the University of Queensland’s Brain Institute.

‘Most of the time that’s not a problem and our brain is able to understand what the eyes tell it,’ they say.

‘But your brain also has to “fill in the blanks” meaning it has to make some guesses based on the simple clues from the eyes.

‘Mostly those guesses are right… sometimes, however, the brain guesses wrong.’

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