Illusions eBook

James Sully
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 304 pages of information about Illusions.

For example, we may grossly misinterpret the intensity of a stimulus under certain circumstances.  Thus, when a man crunches a biscuit, he has an uncomfortable feeling that the noise as of all the structures of his head being violently smashed is the same to other ears, and he may even act on his illusory perception, by keeping at a respectful distance from all observers.  And even though he be a physiologist, and knows that the force of sensation in this case is due to the propagation of vibrations to the auditory centre by other channels than the usual one of the ear, the deeply organized impulse to measure the strength of an external stimulus by the intensity of the sensation asserts its force.

Again, if we turn to the process of perceptional construction properly so called, the reference of the sensation to a material object lying in a certain direction, etc., we find a similar transitional form of illusion.  The most interesting case of this in visual perception is that of a disturbance or displacement of the organ by external force.  For example, an illusory sense of direction arises by the simple action of closing one eye, say the left, and pressing the other eyeball with one of the fingers a little outwards, that is to the right.  The result of this movement is, of course, to transfer the retinal picture to new nervous elements further to the right.  And since, in this instance, the displacement is not produced in the ordinary way by the activity of the ocular muscle making itself known by certain feelings of movement, it is disregarded altogether, and the direction of the objects is judged as though the eye were stationary.

A somewhat similar illusion as to direction occurs in auditory perception.  The sense of direction by the ear is known to be due in part to the action of the auricle, or projecting part of the ear.  This collects the air-waves, and so adds to the intensity of the sounds, especially those coming from in front, and thus assists in the estimation of direction.  This being so, if an artificial auricle is placed in front of the ears; if, for example, the two hands are each bent into a sort of auricle, and placed in front of the ears, the back of the hand being in front, the sense of direction (as well as of distance) is confused.  Thus, sounds really travelling from a point in front of the head will appear to come from behind it.

Again, the perception of the unity of an object is liable to be falsified by the introduction of exceptional circumstances into the sense-organ.  This is illustrated in the well-known experiment of crossing two fingers, say the third and fourth, and placing a marble or other small round object between them.  Under ordinary circumstances, the two lateral surfaces (that is, the outer surfaces of the two fingers) now pressed by the marble, can only be acted on simultaneously by two objects having convex surfaces.  Consequently, we cannot help feeling the presence of two objects in this exceptional instance.  The illusion is analogous to that of the stereoscope, to be spoken of presently.

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Illusions from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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