This Optical Illusion Disappears When You Stare At It And It’s Completely Freaking Us Out

Ready for a magic trick? Your brain will make this picture disappear before your very eyes! Take a look at the optical illusion below. Right now, it may look like an abstract of pastel colors. Now zoom in and pick a spot in the center and stare at it for about 20 seconds. Allow your gaze to relax and try not to glance at other areas of the picture. As you look at the one spot, the colors around it slowly turn white. But once you concentrate on the rest of the image, all the colors return. If it’s difficult to keep your gaze steady, try putting your mouse pointer in the center and stare at that. 

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Stare at this Image and Watch the Colors Disappear 

Troxler Effect
Image credits: NightBreeze13/Reddit

This optical illusion is made possible by the Troxler Effect. Essentially, the brain naturally tries to be efficient but sometimes it can lead you to block out extra things. This effect is named after Swiss physician and polymath Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler. About two centuries ago, he found that some objects and colors can vanish from his vision.

He wrote a paper in 1804 title “On the disappearance of given objects from our visual field”. In it, he surmised that when a person focuses on one unchanging stimulus for a long time, the details in his peripheral vision begin to fade and disappear. And if those details are already blurry or low contrast, like in the picture above, they will vanish more quickly. However, if you are staring out of a car or bus window, the images won’t disappear because of how vibrant and changing the scenery tends to be. Plus, your gaze will jump from one detail to the next instead of steadily staring at one thing. 

Later on, scientists suggest this occurs because the brain is keen at adapting to new stimuli. For instance, when people get dressed in the morning, they may feel aware of the fabric against their skin, but quickly that feeling goes away until they concentrate on that sensation again. (Unless of course they are wearing uncomfortable clothes.) The sensory neurons adapt to this sensation, and because it doesn’t change or threaten the body, the neurons consider it non-essential information and ignore it to focus on more pressing stimuli. [1]

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Seeing the Troxler Effect in Real Life

Once you know about this phenomenon, you can see it in everything. Unless you are mindful of certain things, they disappear from your senses, like the frames of the glasses on your face, the smell from your body, or the feeling of the ground as you walk. Or how deeply we are slouching or clenching our jaws and shoulders until we become suddenly aware of it. (Here’s a friendly reminder to straighten up and relax your jaw and shoulders.) This allows you to tune out sounds like a humming fridge or faraway traffic and focus on music or a conversation. If you decide to become mindful of everything going on in your surroundings, you may be surprised at how many senses are activated without you realizing. The brain had decided for you to ignore these more “boring” and unimportant sensations. [2]

If you liked this optical illusion, here are some more brain-bending images:

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Sources

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  1. “This ‘Disappearing’ Optical Illusion Proves Your Brain Is Too Smart for Its Own Good.Live Science. Brandon Specktor. April 11, 2018
  2. “Why This Blurry Optical Illusion Disappears If You Stare at It.” Mental Floss. Michele Debczak. April 12, 2018
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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