Our brains are powerful and complex machines, but that’s not to say they can’t be easily manipulated and tricked on occasion. If you need proof, look (literally) no further than what happens with optical illusions.
Whether it’s because we can’t compute what we’re seeing or the image is just intentionally deceiving, there’s no shortage of ways our minds can be tricked. Sometimes these illusions are so tricky, in fact, that the entire collective internet freaks out about them.
Need proof? Just take these photos for example and see if your mind is playing tricks on you!
1. At first sight, this seemingly innocuous picture of Kendall (right) and Kylie (center) Jenner with their pal, Hailey Baldwin, appears to be just another gala photo of celebrities enjoying their night. But take a look at Kendall’s legs—er, leg. Where’s the other one?
The answer: Don’t worry, Kendall Jenner didn’t just suddenly up and lose a leg. It took some amateur sleuthing on the internet’s part, but they discovered that if you look closely at the bottom of her dress, you can see the shape of her other leg hidden beneath the fabric.
2. When this photo of six women enjoying a night in with each other was shared to Reddit, people immediately freaked. Just like the previous Kendall Jenner photo, it appeared as if one of these ladies was missing something important…
The answer: When you take a closer look, it becomes much more clear exactly what’s going on. This one comes down to simple body positioning. The woman in the middle is leaning at such an angle that it makes her legs appear as if they’re part of her friend’s body. Whoops!
3. Internet users around the world were instantly baffled by this photo of four friends taking a touristy photo. But if you’re paying attention to the ladies at the focus of the image, you’re already on the wrong track. Take a look at the background. Anything seem off to you?
The answer: See all those people in the background? Do you notice that they all seem to be sharing the exact same face? Well, their mother certainly didn’t give birth to identical nonuplets. Turns out this one is just the Photoshopped work of a clever and deceitful person… who maybe has some sort of weird affinity for the guy in the back.
4. When art school student Hunter Culverhouse shared this photo to Instagram a little more than a year back, people immediately engaged in the old back and forth. Were the legs in the picture oily and super slick, or was it trickery at work?
The answer: Turns out that Hunter is a pretty incredible artist. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the legs aren’t oily at all. Instead, there’s some purposefully placed white paint that gives these gams the appearance of a glossy sheen. Trickery at its finest.
5. Ahh, who could forget the most infamous illusion of all: “The Dress?” When a Tumblr user first shared this picture of a dress, users around the world couldn’t help but argue about the color. Was it black and blue or was it gold and white?
The answer: Well, while the lighting in the photo might’ve made it appear to be white and gold to some people, the truth is that it’s black and blue. Still in disbelief? Just take a look at this website selling the dress. Yeah, that’s royal blue. Now you’re seeing things in a totally new light. Case closed.
6. When you look at this beautiful plate of nicely sliced strawberries, what color do they appear to be? If you’re seeing red, it’s not the strawberries—you’re just mad because your mind is playing tricks on you. Want to know what color they really are?
The answer: Caron Mell, a writer for the television show Silicon Valley, posted a helpful diagram that separates the pixels for you. In fact, it turns out that the entire picture is gray and green. Your brain is playing tricks on you because of color constancy, which has to do with the way light affects the colors that you see.
7. Created by Meiji University professor Kokichi Sugihara, this optical illusion is going to blow your mind. Do you notice how this mirror seems to reflect completely different shapes than the ones in the foreground? What’s up with that?
The answer: As you can see in the photo below, the way the object is reflected in the mirror isn’t necessarily a good representation of the way it actually looks. Aptly titled “The Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion,” these objects are so deceptive because they’re shaped to be somewhere between square and circle.
8. Here’s a more classic optical illusion for you. When you stare at the surface, how many black dots do you see? One? Two? Six? Well, there are actually 12, but don’t worry, most people aren’t able to see them all at once.
The answer: With the help of these bright red circles, it becomes easier to see all of the 12 dots. The reason you likely can’t see them simultaneously is because most people just don’t have great peripheral vision!
9. Take a look at this incredibly boring photograph of a brick wall. Your eyes are likely wandering from top to bottom and side to side. But what do you see? Is there something hidden in there that shouldn’t be? Is your brain playing tricks on you? Yes and yes…
The answer: Take a good hard look at the object in the red oval outline. Do you see it? Why that’s a nice cigar sticking out of the wall. It so closely matches the lines in the bricks and cragginess of the wall that it appears almost invisible at first sight.
10. When this image of a child swimming originally appeared on Imgur, users couldn’t help but argue about what it depicted. Naturally, the debate was brought over to Reddit, and users could not figure out whether it showed a young child above or under the water…
The answer: You’ll get the best information by looking at the child’s feet. There’s no way that she could possibly be splashing underwater. So, it turns out that she’s above the water. Also, take a look at her hair—it’s definitely not wet! Chalk this one up to a clever filter used on the photo.
11. When you look at these two wooden toy train track pieces next to each other, what do you notice? Most likely, it’s their differing size. The thing is: they’re the exact same size! Sure, that doesn’t seem possible, but read on…
The answer: When they’re neatly placed one on top of the other, it becomes clear that they’re, in fact, identical. This is because your brain compares the larger, outer edge of the piece on the left to the relatively smaller curve of the piece on the right without so much as telling you.
12. A few years back, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano snapped this picture of a series of identical sand dunes. People couldn’t believe their eyes! It seemed as if they were looking at holes in the ground. Luca himself even compared the photo to an Escher painting because it was so deceptive. What’s actually going on?
The answer: Sometimes it just takes a change of perspective to see things for what they truly are. By simply flipping this picture upside-down, you can clearly make out the sand dunes rising from the ground. Your brain just didn’t know how to perceive the shadows!