What do you see?
Visual illusions are so much fun! Do you see the old lady or the young lady? The rabbit or the duck? From lines and circles that seem to be different sizes but are actually the same to elephants with 5 legs, visual illusions are varied and again and again it is interesting to see how easily our brains can be tricked, while being entertained at the same time.
Visual illusions have some interesting messages for us. Firstly, it is possible for two people to look at the same thing, see something completely different, and yet both be correct. It’s good to remember this in life. One person can look at an empty section and see the stress and hard work needed to build a house on it. Another person can see the same empty section and see a fabulous house there, one they will take joy out of building and will love when it’s done. It is not that one person is right and the other is wrong, both are correct, partly due to the nature of the building process, and partly due to their own expectations. Someone expecting stress and hard work will most definitely find it around every corner, just as someone who is looking forward to an amazing house and enjoying the process of choosing exactly what that will look like will take joy out of seeing progress as it’s made.
What’s also interesting about visual illusions is that you can influence what people see. If you give people a list of words before showing them a picture that can be interpreted two ways, that list of words can ‘prime’ someone towards seeing a certain thing. Take the young lady/old lady illusion for example, if you ask someone to memorise words that may be associated with old age, for example ‘slow, bingo, gray, lonely’, and then ask them to look at the image, they are far more likely to see the old lady than the young one. In a similar way, we are constantly being primed and priming ourselves in life, so that we are more likely to see something in one way than another. Some of us walk around thinking we’re not good enough, which makes us more likely to see when people around us are upset and to think that their mood is due to something we’ve done, while others walk around confident in themselves, and when they see those same upset people, simply wonder what’s happened in their world that’s made them upset. Our beliefs about ourselves and others determine what we see, and it’s worth knowing that with the right training or assistance, we can learn to see something completely different.
Another thing worth learning from visual illusions is that sometimes what you think you’re seeing is not what you’re seeing at all. We think the elephant has 4 legs because that’s what we expect to see. We think that the lines are different lengths because of other lines around them. However if we take a step back, ask for another perspective or take a second look, we can realise there’s something completely different there to what we thought. Sometimes it’s worth taking a second look.