Your brain is seeing these colours wrong and here’s why

Jul 4, 2019

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Your brain is seeing these colours wrong and here’s why

Jul 4, 2019

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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Illusion by Prof. David Novick, The University of Texas at El Paso

Readers of this blog know that we are kind of obsessed with color and color perception. Here is a great example of why color can never be an exact science and has a lot do to with your brains and how they perceive color. See if you can tell (without hitting the “read more” button) how many different colors these spheres have.

Whatever you guessed was probably wrong. Unless you said one.

This one sphere has the exact RGB values of (255,188,144), and it is kind of goldish-bronze. Here all the spheres look bronze. Now, go back to the top photos and look at the spheres again. Only this time focus on a single sphere. It looks bronze as well. Focus on a different sphere… Bronze again…

It is only when you look at the entire photo, the spheres assume different colors. Here is that same photo with no stripes going over the spheres.

Still not buying it? Look at this animated gif by syfy.com:

So why is this happening? Why do we see the color of the spheres change even though we know that they are all in the same color?

Syfy explains:

In a nutshell, we do perceive colors as they stand on their own, but also by contrast with colors around them. If I put up an image of a red square, then (assuming you have normal color vision) it looks red. But if I put up objects with other colors around it, the color we perceive changes a bit. That can be manipulated using stripes of different colors, for example. In the top row, note the colors of the stripes going across the balls. The left one has green stripes, the middle one red, and the right one blue. That changes how we see the balls.

This is called the Munker-White illusion (or sometimes just the Munker illusion), and it’s a powerful one. When you’re not looking directly at the balls, the color of the stripes pulls the color of the ball toward it, in a manner of speaking, so the green stripes make the ball look greener.

Perhaps the most mesmerizing illustration of this illusion is this video by thehardmenpath:

If you want more here are some more illusions by Prof. David Novick:

Illusion by Prof. David Novick, The University of Texas at El Paso
Illusion by Prof. David Novick, The University of Texas at El Paso
Illusion by Prof. David Novick, The University of Texas at El Paso
Illusion by Prof. David Novick, The University of Texas at El Paso
Illusion by Prof. David Novick, The University of Texas at El Paso

[Prof. David Novick The University of Texas at El Paso via Bad Astronomy]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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9 responses to “Your brain is seeing these colours wrong and here’s why”

  1. Michael Estwik Avatar
    Michael Estwik

    I had to pick a colour picker to make sure there wasn’t a trick and yes, I can confirm that all balls are in bronze even though our brains doesn’t see them as bronze.

  2. Kryn Sporry Avatar
    Kryn Sporry

    They’re all the same

  3. Lajos Pasztor Avatar
    Lajos Pasztor

    According to the color picker it is all about: #FFCB98 sampled on the top middle section :)

  4. Alan Amos Avatar
    Alan Amos

    I thought they were all yellow. Good illusion though.

  5. Alan Amos Avatar
    Alan Amos

    Richard Edge

  6. John Aldred Avatar
    John Aldred

    I’m really proud of everybody who hasn’t made a comment about blue balls :)

    1. Sirius Avatar
      Sirius

      how can you be proud of people that you don’t even know? (typing this on my cum encrusted keyboard after whacking off to those pretty balls)

  7. Jade Holing Avatar
    Jade Holing

    Grey

  8. Carl Wilson Avatar
    Carl Wilson

    I see purple, orange and slightly yellow/green ish colored spheres