The Phenomenal Qualities Project

Investigating the nature of consciousness and its place in the physical world…

Phenomenal Illusions

Images and Photos of Interest

1. The Swirls Illusion

Look carefully at the phenomenally green and blue swirls…

Now here are the ‘real’ colours:


Exactly the same image, except with the background filled in with black.
Exactly the same image, except with the background filled in with black.

This pair of slides has been used by psychologists to illustrate how our colour vision is ‘deceptive’, i.e. the way in which we can experience colours as different to how they ‘really’ are, depending upon background and contrast effects.

2. The Checkerboard Illusion

Squares ‘A’ and ‘B’ really have the same shade of grey.

For proof see the following image:

3. Same but Different Oranges

As before, the oranges in each column are, despite appearances, really the same shade.

4. Rubliks Cube Illusion

The central brown square on top and the central yellowish square on the facing side look to be different shades but…

This is just the yellow square isolated from its background.

What do these illusions show about the nature of our perception and experience of colours?

9 Comments»

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  Fernanda wrote @

I couldn’t allow myself to believe the first one. I just did not believe it. Then I thought to save the image and ‘test’ the colors in Photoshop. I am speechless…and now fascinated by phenomenal qualities and eager to learn more!

  Sam Coleman wrote @

Hi Eric,
The first one is due to Richard Wiseman, a psychologist here at the University of Hertfordshire. The others are drawn from various sources on the web.

  Eric Thomson wrote @

I’m curious about the original sources of these illusions. The first in particular is great, and I hadn’t seen it before.


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