Category Archives: Seeing

From Stroboscope to Dream Machine

‘From Stroboscope to Dream Machine: A History of Flicker-Induced Hallucinations’ is a wonderful article that has just appeared in medical journal European Neurology. It charts how an early finding in visual neuroscience was adopted by the Beat writer William Burroughs and became a fixture of the psychedelic sixties. Flicker induced hallucinations have been noted throughout […]

Lifetime blindness prevents schizophrenia?

Rather mysteriously, no one can find anyone who has been blind from birth and has later been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I found this interesting snippet from a short article from Behavioral and Brain Sciences: Five independent searches, varying considerably in scope, methods, and population, failed to identify even one well-defined co-occurrence of total blindness and […]

Oliver Sacks on the varieties of hallucinatory experience

Oliver Sacks has done a wonderful TED talk on hallucinations that has just been released online. He particularly focuses on the hallucinations of Charles Bonnet syndrome where damage or decay of the retina can cause strikingly complex hallucinations of people and animals that seems to be a natural part of the visual scene. Interestingly, the […]

The vision thing

ABC Radio National’s Night Air has a wonderfully atmospheric programme on hallucinations, or maybe visual art, or the sensitivity of blindness, or maybe about how the mind constructs reality. It’s deliciously unfocussed and the programme glides hazily between neuroscience, art, poetry and visual consciousness. There’s the occasional moment where the vibe slips off its axis, […]

Vision shift glasses alter time perception

There’s an intriguing study about to be published in Psychological Science finding that people wearing prism glasses that shift everything to the right overestimate the passage of time, while people wearing left-shift glasses underestimate it. The researchers, led by psychologist Francesca Frassinetti, asked participants to watch a square appear on-screen for varying time periods, and […]

I know where you are secretly attending!

A remarkable study has just been published in the cognitive science journal Vision Research which may be the first genuine demonstration of brain scan ‘mind reading’. The study focuses on visual attention and particularly what is called ‘covert visual attention’ – the ability to mentally focus on something without moving your eyes. For example, take […]

Visual Illusion Contest 2009 winners

The results of the annual visual illusion contest have just been announced and the 2009 winner is a doozy. Like all the best visual illusions it’s conceptually simple but perceptually striking. In this case a falling ball seems to drop vertically when you look straight at it but seems to glide away at an angle […]

Out of sight but not out of mind

Not Exactly Rocket Science discusses the case of a man who experiences the world as a blind man, but who is able to navigate through rooms despite having no conscious visual experience. TN was a doctor before two successive strokes destroyed his ability to see. The first one severely damaged the occipital lobe on the […]

Hazy paving

The photograph is of some visual illusion paving stones found in Bogot√°’s Zona T this morning. They give the impression of an uneven surface despite being completely flat. I was in Bogot√° to give a talk to the Asociaci√≥n Colombiana de Psiquiatr√≠a Biol√≥gica who kindly invited me to their Christmas meeting. Many thanks to them, […]

Not connecting with faces in the street and in the brain

Not Exactly Rocket Science has a great write-up of a recent study that may explain why some people are born without the ability to recognise faces – a condition known as congenital prosopagnosia. Face recognition is particularly associated with a part of the temporal lobe called the fusiform gyrus. Although it’s controversial whether this area […]

Still on the move

Scientific American has a fantastic gallery of visual illusions images created both by artists and scientists that produce dramatic false motion from still images. There’s 12 images, but the one pictured is my favourite which is simply described like so: “This illusion is a contemporary variation on the Ouchi pattern, by Kitaoka”. As with many […]

Kanizsa kiwi

A brilliant illustration of the Kanizsa triangle made out of kiwi fruit by Flickr user Yves Moreaux. The Kanizsa triangle is often used to argue that a purely ‘bottom-up’ approach to understanding vision – that says we generate our perception solely from building up from the small details of what we see – is flawed. […]

Waterfalls, adaptation and light

Firstly, you’ll have to excuse the somewhat ‘in house’ nature of this post, as it’s me writing about Christian writing about Tom. It’s an account of Tom giving an address to the Association for the Teaching of Psychology where he conducted a fantastic demonstration of how you can test out whether your brain adapts to […]

Through the looking glass

The New York Times has a great article on the psychology of mirrors that shows that they’re both cognitively challenging and have the power to change our social behaviour. As a kid I spent hours puzzling over the fact that mirrors seemed to swap left and right but not up and down and it seems […]

Visual cliff hanger

Vimeo has some video of what looks like footage from Gibson and Walk’s original 1960 ‘visual cliff’ experiment where they tested whether infants had depth perception by attempting to get them to walk over glass plates suspended above a drop. Unfortunately, the video doesn’t fully describe the experiment, which is a pity as it was […]

Best visual illusion of the year announced

Mixing Memory has alerted me to the fact that the winner of the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest has been announced, and what a fantastic illusion it is. It’s an animated one, so you need to go to the page and stare at the dot in the centre for 20-30 seconds. The creators […]


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