Don’t Always Trust What You See – An Experiment

In this post, we put on our lab gowns and conducted an experiment on visual perception.  It’s a simple experiment conducted on school kids, and it proves how easily people get blinded by obvious optical illusions. It proves that as a species, we trust what we see too much.

Note: This is not an academic study or experiment, nor is it published in any scientific journal. It is just an informal experiment conducted to satisfy human curiosity 🙂


The phrase “seeing is believing” is commonly used in situations where an individual hears something so outrageous that they’d have to visually perceive something in order to believe it. The phrase clearly shows how much emphasis and reliance we have in our eyes. Our eyes help us every day wherever we go. This reliance; however, can turn into overconfidence. Our eyes can be tricked. There are things in this world that were made for the sole purpose of playing with our senses. In this post, we’ll use such illusions.

We usually use context in order to understand that which we perceive, but context can be changed in order to trick us. Many of the illusions in this experiment use these contexts to create a visual illusion. There are other kinds of illusions too. Some illusions play with your other senses such as hearing and pain. These illusions are crafted in such a way that our brain, brimming with confidence, gets deceived. Our senses are not perfect, but our senses think they are. It is only until we are in on the illusions that we can see it. One thing of interest is to see how well our senses can detect these illusions.

We tested the perception of 4th-6th Graders, a ripe pre-pubescent age. At that age, children know what they’re doing. They’re no longer just running around the halls. We wanted to see how well they do. Both boys and girls were considered. Girls are often seen as being more precise and meticulous than boys while boys are usually more rash. We wanted to see if there really is truth behind these stereotypes.

We exposed the kids to illusions that deal with visually perceivable color, size, shape and more.

Goal of the Experiment

We wanted to answer the following questions:

  1. What percentage of the kids will be blinded by the optical illusions?
  2. Is there a difference in the visual perception between males and females?

Experiment Questions

What follows below are the questions asked of the respondents and a chart displaying the summary of responses for each optical illusion.

1.) Which Figure (A or B) has a bigger center circle?

Optical Illusion Presented:

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In this first question, two figures both with a circle in the middle were presented to the respondents. 56% said that Figure A has a bigger center circle and understandably so since it visually looks bigger. 19% said Figure B had a larger inner circle, maybe their visual perception works in reverse? We seriously don’t know why.

However, both center circles in A and B are actually the same in size. They look different in size because their surrounding circles change our perception. A respectable 25% could tell that both circles are the same size, but the remaining 75% were definitely fooled by their eyes!

2.) Which Circle (A, B, C, D or E) has the darkest shade of gray, or is closest to black?

Optical Illusion Presented:

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4 - Don't Always Trust What You See - An Experiment

In this one, those who got fooled by the optical illusion answered E. All the circles are actually of the same color, but the circle in E looks darkest because its background is the brightest. In this illusion, the background squares change our visual perception of the color of the circles.

On the other hand, some respondents also answered A or B. We don’t know what they saw, but they probably thought the question referred to the squares instead of the circles. Overall, 24% were not fooled by the illusion, but the remaining 76% fell for it – a good majority.

3.) There are gray spots in the corners of the black squares in…

Optical Illusion Presented:

5 - Don't Always Trust What You See - An Experiment


6 - Don't Always Trust What You See - An Experiment

The picture above contains nothing but 25 black squares. However, 61% of the respondents saw gray spots in between the squares. Only 39% were not fooled by the illusion and knew that the picture does not have any gray spots.

4.) Are the gears really moving?

Optical Illusion Presented:

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This one looks like a stereotype optical illusion. It is none other than the classic moving gears illusion. Even if the gears appear to be moving, they obviously are not. However, more than half (57%) thought otherwise and got fooled by the illusion.

5.) Which vertical line is longer?

Optical Illusion Presented:

9 - Don't Always Trust What You See - An Experiment


10 - Don't Always Trust What You See - An Experiment

If you thought Figure A has a longer vertical line than Figure B, your visual perception is the same as 45% of the respondents. By now you should have guessed that both lines are of the same length. From the experiment, 45% got fooled while 10% were in a different league claiming that Figure B instead has the longer line. At least a good 45% said both are of the same length and were not fooled by the illusion.

6.) Are the sides of the squares wavy or straight?

Optical Illusion Presented:

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In this last optical illusion, the respondents had to tell whether the sides/edges of the squares are straight or wavy. The circles are positioned to make the edges look wavy when in fact they’re actually dead straight.

55% said the edges were straight while 45% said they were wavy. This time around, the percentage of people who got fooled is less than half since only 45% thought the edges are actually wavy.

Overall, the majority got fooled by the illusions

Combining the results from all 6 optical illusions above, 61% of the respondents got deceived by illusions. This goes to show that more than half of the people blindly believed their eyes, which led them to an inaccurate visual perception of the optical illusions.

The number (61%) was not really a big surprise. It was expected that most of the respondents should get deceived by visual perception. It simply proves how our eyes lie to us. It was interesting though, to see that there was a respectable amount of respondents who did not get deceived. There might be numerous reasons for this, it could be that some of the respondents are already accustomed to these kinds of illusions and so they do not fall for them, others probably had truthful eyes by their side. Whichever the case, it can be inferred that our eyes are always being trained by whatever experiences it goes through.

Did gender affect visual perception?

It would be interesting to see if one gender gets fooled more easily than the other. So, we examined the results and found out that 64% of the male respondents got deceived by the illusions, while 58% of the females got fooled by the same illusions.

This explains, to an extent that males are slightly more susceptible to visual illusions, maybe also because they paid less attention. Females, as we know them, tend to be more careful and meticulous in everything they do, so this could explain why females weren’t deceived as much as their male counterparts.

Final Thoughts

  1. Most of the respondents’ perception was affected by visual illusions presented to them.

This is not an unusual find, from the term “illusion” is itself self-explanatory wherein we would expect that anyone has a high chance of getting deceived by these visual figures. This though also tells us that our senses aren’t perfect and sometimes we perceive things that are not there or sometimes we fail to perceive things that are supposed to be there.

  1. A respectable amount of respondents (39%) weren’t deceived by visual illusions.

Human beings are intelligent creatures, at least some of us. We have lived for centuries because we quickly adapt to the fast-changing environment around us. This experiment tells us how quickly our intelligence adapts to past experiences and even changes our mindset for higher chances of survival. As a respectable amount of the kids failed to get deceived by illusions, it goes to show that human beings are intelligent and rational beings.

  1. Fewer people get deceived by illusions regarding shapes.

A smaller percentage of kids got deceived by the shape themed illusion (number 6: sides of the squares)  compared to the size and colored themed illusions where more than half of them got deceived.

  1. Males are more likely in getting deceived by visual illusions compared to females.

The results have shown a slight difference from the results between males and females wherein slightly more males are likely to be deceived by visual illusions compared to females. This may explain why in reality,  boys are likely reprimanded to give more attention in school-related works while females are more likely perceived as well behaved and are more likely praised for listening to the teacher more attentively.

So yes, in a nutshell, don’t always trust what you see. Because, your eyes may be lying. Not everything in life is what it appears to be. Just like the optical illusions in this experiment, everyday life situations are also freaking hard to interpret.

What’s the fun in living stronger alone? If you found this post useful, go ahead and share it with the people you care about! Let’s live stronger together!

All images for optical illusions were obtained from the site, 1

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