The 6 Best Optical Illusions to Stump the Internet, Ranked

Things aren't always what they seem.


Optical illusions are both divisive and collaborative. Sure, there’s often people that see one thing and the individuals that see another. But at the same time, the internet age has created the opportunity for people from all over to come together and try to figure out these puzzling images.

The brain is a funny organ, and it’s endlessly amusing when a picture can make it think we’re seeing something that we’re not. The best optical illusions can vex us for hours, having us stare at computer screens hoping to eventually see what so many others can. Some of these illusions are designed specifically to trick us, while others are just pictures taken at the perfect moment, when the lighting or positioning is in just right the place to stump us all.

Here are the best optical illusions that have perplexed the internet in recent years:

6. The girl with no legs


Based on a picture that originally appeared on the pics subreddit, it’s not immediately clear what the quandary is. But take a second to count the girls on the couch. Now count their pairs of legs. Notice anything strange? So did the internet.

One of the girls in the photo seems to be missing the bottom half of her body. This is one of those accidental illusions that’s a product of both the angle of the photo and the positioning of its subjects.

What’s really happening is that the two girls on the far left are both wearing dark pants, so it’s extremely difficult to differentiate their legs from one another. Here’s a visual aid:

5. The morphing train tracks


In April 2016, BBC journalist Marc Settle posted an odd video on Twitter. It shows two pieces of a toy train set, lying next to each other on a table. At first, the one on the bottom clearly looks larger. But, not so, demonstrates Settle.

When he places one on top of they other, they are in fact actually the same size. It left Marc, and many others, asking, “What is going on here?!”

For the curious, the phenomenon you’re experiencing when you look at these train tracks is common to all humans, and it has a name: the Jastrow Illusion, taken from Polish psychologist Joseph Jastrow. It’s actually not know why this illusion occurs, but it has to do with the way our brains perceive curves. In any case, it makes for a damn good party trick.

4. The painted legs


Perhaps the downright weirdest illusion on this list, the case of the painted legs, started with an innocent Instagram post. User @leonardhoespams posted a picture with the caption, “i like the feeling of paint on my skin.”

But people weren’t buying it. A vast debate ensued, with tons of attention on Twitter, about whether those legs really had paint on them or if they were just oily with light reflecting off of them.

It may be difficult for some to see what the other side sees. For those who can’t see the glossiness, try staring in an unfocused way at the picture, at a point between the legs, and it’ll start to look shimmery. For those who can’t see the paint, look more directly at the white lines. As coincidentally placed as they are, it becomes pretty clear it’s paint.

3. The disappearing dots

In a tweet that garnered over 35,000 re-tweets, Will Kerslake of video game company Crystal Dynamics posted a mind-bending picture that, depending on your personality, will either be more fun or more frustrating the longer you look at it.

There are in fact 12 dots in that image, placed linearly within the intersections of the lines, and you cannot in fact see them all. The Verge explains that it’s because humans have bad peripheral vision, so their eyes can’t comprehend all the dots at the same time. Enjoy the pleasure and/or the torture of jumping back and forth between which dots you can see with each slight move of your eyes.

Do these look red to you?


2. The gray strawberries

This image come from Japanese professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a known illustrator of illusions who often plays tricks with color perception. The illusion makes you think these strawberries are red, just like strawberries are supposed to be. But, in fact, they aren’t. Believe it or not, that picture is all gray.

The principle at work here is called color constancy, which is the brain’s way of compensating for lighting differences in seeing color. Because your brain understands what strawberries are supposed to look like, it attempts to color the image with the appropriate contrasts in order to align the image in your eyes with the image in your mind.

Remember this? Of course you do.

Know Your Meme

1. The Dress

This was the illusion that practically divided the internet into two. A user on Tumblr posted the picture asking if anyone could help identify the colors of the dress. Was it blue and black, or white and gold? According to Know Your Meme, the original post got 400,000 notes in under two days.

From there, the post went viral. Factions formed. Battle lines were drawn. Buzzfeed polls were held. A lot of people said it was white and gold; those people ended up being wrong.

Know Your Meme

The dress is, in fact, blue and black. But, thanks again to color constancy, poor photo quality, and some odd lighting, many were fooled into believing the opposite. It created epic confusion for everyone involved, and there are probably some “white and gold” holdouts who still haven’t given in. In the end, it was a testament to the ability of the human brain to manipulate perception and inspire awe — yet it was just a dress.

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