Illusions eBook

James Sully
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 358 pages of information about Illusions.
For example, we tend to magnify the differences of light among objects, all of which are feebly illuminated, that is to say, to see them much more removed from one another in point of brightness than when they are more strongly illuminated.  Helmholtz relates that, owing to this tendency, he has occasionally caught himself, on a dark night, entertaining the illusion that the comparatively bright objects visible in twilight were self-luminous.[18]

Again, there are limits to the conscious separation of sensations which are received together, and this fact gives rise to illusion.  In general, the number of distinguishable sensations answers to the number of external causes; but this is not always the case, and here we naturally fall into the error of mistaking the number of the stimuli.  Reference has already been made to this fact in connection with the question whether consciousness can be mistaken as to the character of a present feeling.

The case of confusing two impressions when the sensory fibres involved are very near one another, has already been alluded to.  Both in touch and in sight we always take two or more points for one when they are only separated by an interval that falls below the limits of local discrimination.  It seems to follow from this that our perception of the world as a continuum, made up of points perfectly continuous one with another may, for what we know, be illusory.  Supposing the universe to consist of atoms separated by very fine intervals, then it is demonstrable that it would appear to our sensibility as a continuum, just as it does now.[19]

Two or more simultaneous sensations are indistinguishable from one another, not only when they have nearly the same local origin, but under other circumstances.  The blending of partial sensations of tone in a klang-sensation, and the coalescence in certain cases of the impressions received by way of the two retinas, are examples of this.  It is not quite certain what determines this fusion of two simultaneous feelings.  It may be said generally that it is favoured by similarity between the sensations;[20] by a comparative feebleness of one of the feelings; by the fact of habitual concomitance, the two sensations occurring rarely, if ever, in isolation; and by the presence of a mental disposition to view them as answering to one external object.  These considerations help us to explain the coalescence of the retinal impressions and its limits, the fusion of partial tones, and so on.[21]

It is plain that this fusion of sensations, whatever its exact conditions may be, gives rise to error or wrong interpretation of the sense-impression.  Thus, to take the points of two legs of a pair of compasses for one point is clearly an illusion of perception.  Here is another and less familiar example.  Very cold and smooth surfaces, as those of metal, often appear to be wet.  I never feel sure, after wiping the blades of my skates, that they are perfectly dry,

Project Gutenberg
Illusions from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook