The Physics and Psychology of Illusions

Topics: Optical illusion, Perception, Optical illusions Pages: 27 (10086 words) Published: August 27, 2013
ROLL NO.: 247

Sr. No:
| TOPIC:| Page No:|
1.| Consciousness: An illusion?| 3.|
2.| Perception| 6.|
3.| Physics and Illusions| 13.|
4.| Color and Light illusions| 20.|
5.| Psychology and illusions| 24.|
6.| Conclusion| 32.|
7.| Bibliography| 33.|


Consciousness could be at once the most obvious and the most difficult thing we could investigate. We seem either to have to use consciousness to investigate itself, which would sound slightly weird an idea, or to have to disentangle ourselves from the very concept we want to study. Hence, we are now confronted with some tricky questions like- What does consciousness do? Could we have evolved without it? Could consciousness be an illusion? What is consciousness, anyway? What we need to consider is that how could the electric firing of millions of tiny brains produce this- our private, subjective, conscious experience? And if we must understand consciousness, we must solve this problem seriously. This problem is a modern incarnation of the famous mind-body problem. The trouble while understanding this is that in ordinary human experiences there seem to be two entirely different kinds of thing, with no obvious way to bring the two together. On one hand, we have our own experiences. For example: take a cup of coffee or a pen- and just look, smell, and feel its texture. Do you believe there is a real objective cup there, with actual tea in it, made of atoms and molecules? Aren't you also having a private subjective experience of the cup and the taste of the tea – the 'what it is like' for you? What is this experience made of? It seems to be something completely different from actual tea and molecules. All these are “my” own private experiences and they have a quality that I cannot convey to anyone else. I may wonder whether your experience of smelling the coffee is exactly as the smell for me, but I can never really find out. These ineffable (or indescribable) qualities are called “qualia.” Daniel Dennett, American philosopher and cognitive scientist, writes that qualia is "an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us." On the other hand, I really do believe that there exists a physical world out there that gives rise to these experiences. We may doubt about what exactly is this physical world made of, or wonder about its deeper nature, but we cannot doubt its existence. When the objective world out there and our subjective experiences of it seem to be such different kinds of thing, how can one be caused by, or arise from, or even depend upon, the other? To solve this mystery, people throughout history have adopted some kind of a dualism: the belief that there exist, indeed, two different realms or worlds. The major religions are almost all dualist: Christians and Muslims believe in an eternal, non-physical soul, and Hindus believe in the Atman or divine self within. Popular New Age theories invoke the powers of mind, consciousness, or spirit, as though they were an independent force; understanding consciousness. Hence, coming back to the original problem that we previously spotted, we must either actually solve the hard problem (which, indeed, will take a million years or more!) and explain how subjectivity arises from the material world, or alternatively, if we claim that consciousness is identical to those physical processes, or is an illusion or even that it does now exist at all, we must explain why it appears so strongly to exist. However, we must deal with a different task here, i.e. to explain why there seems to be such a problem and why we seem to have these ineffable, non-physical, conscious experiences....

Bibliography: Galotti, K.(2007) defines perception as the process of taking sensory input and interpreting it meaningfully.
* Theories of perception:
We shall consider two important theories of perception as stated by Galotti, K.(2007).
The first theory is called the ‘Feature Integration theory’ by Treisman(FIT: Treisman,1986) :
According to this theory, the first stage of perception is the pre-attentive stage
It was the German Physicist, Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) who introduced the notion that visual perceptions are unconscious inferences (von Helmholtz 1866)
* Ponzo Illusion:
The Ponzo illusion is a geometrical-optical illusion that was first demonstrated by the Italian psychologist Mario Ponzo (1882–1960) in 1911.
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