Christmas is a time for reflection, sharing gifts and enjoying time with loved ones. Not to be fooled by optical illusions. But hold on to the eggnog and turn off the Strictly Special because this Christmas optical illusion is a blast.
Do you see those two red snowflakes in the picture below? They’re different sizes, aren’t they? But no. We’re told that the two snowflakes in this optical illusion are actually the same size (if all this festive fun has got you in the mood for more, check out our selection of must-see optical illusions).
So there I was, Christmas all planned, ready to settle down for the Great Christmas Bake Off and an episode of His Dark Materials when a company called Jackpotjoy instead sent us an annoying optical illusion to entertain us. The image shows a heap of festive snowflakes on a blue background. There are two red snowflakes: one surrounded by six large white snowflakes and the other surrounded by eight small snowflakes.
These red snowflakes appear to be different sizes. But we were told that no, they are actually identical. Confusion is not caused by too many mimosas, but by the so-called “Ebbinghaus effect”, named after the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. He described how objects of the same size can appear larger or smaller due to relative perception of size.
Basically, our interpretation of an object’s size is influenced by its proximity to others. When the surrounding white snowflakes are closer to the central red snowflake, it appears larger and vice versa. Our brain tells us that the red snowflake on the left must be smaller because it’s far from the white ones around it. The white snowflakes on the left are also much larger, making the red one appear small in comparison.
Well I figured maybe they were trying to quickly trick us here so I dragged the image into Photoshop (sorry guys I had to check) to get rid of those pesky white snowflakes that are confusing us. And indeed, the two red snowflakes are identical.
Well, apparently in a test involving 95 people, eight out of ten were fooled by the image. Whether that was before or after the Christmas party isn’t being said, but the statistic should offer some comfort to anyone fooled by this optical illusion. If you’ve got the appetite for more, check out our pick of the best optical illusions of the year. Or see if you can design your own with the best graphic design software.