The Coffer Illusion - how many circles do you see?


Originally published at:


Took a bit for me to see the circles.

They are the horizontal stripe parts.


It took me a really long time to see the Coffer Illusion as circles. As in, so long I’d looked at all the other illusions on the page, then came back to it - and boom, it was there!

As with many of these, once my brain has “seen” it, I can will it to see either configuration afterwards. So cool!


I’m interested in how this sort of exists right on the fine line between what my brain will say is a circle and what it will not say is a circle when its processing the chaos of light that is firing through my eyes. On the other hand, I don’t think this is a question of seeing “the” circles or “all 16” circles. I don’t think there are any circles in the image. I didn’t so much see circles as accepted what I was seeing as circles.


The difference being … ?


Once I realized where they were, the others seem to pop out right away, as if some sort of neural pattern recognizer developed. Whoopee, doesn’t help my inability to find the right word sometimes.


I think the value of what is interesting about the illusion is in getting you to think about what the difference between those things is.


Scrolling the image made them pop out for me…


Thanks! This helped a lot, I could not see that one until I saw your comment. For me it has some of the feel of those Magic Eye illusion books, which I was also never very good at.

The other illusion that always gives me trouble is the Spinning Dancer. I can see both directions, but I can’t switch at will. I can only make myself see the counterclockwise version with difficulty. Like, I have to scroll so I only see the bottom foot, and sometimes I need to physically move my head to match the direction I want to see. Then I scroll back up and see it. But I can switch back to clockwise just by closing my eyes briefly.


I had to look between the ‘circles’ for them to appear. When they were in the focus point of my field of vision, they didn’t look circular at all. But just into the periphery laterally, they popped right out.


Ahh thanks @grazza so depends on where your eyes focus for your brain to see the pattern. Still not sure those are proper circles but neat brain fail.


It helps if you “look through” the image, like you’re focusing on something in the distance.


I saw the circles immediately, but I don’t have true 3d vision so I’m used to rapidly oscillating my view of things to extract information.

The Venetian mask is amazingly well-done.


Sure, we may be living in a post-truth alternative-facts-ridden world, but I refuse to define a circle as anything but “the set of all points in a plane that are at a given distance from a given point, the centre; equivalently it is the curve traced out by a point that moves so that its distance from a given point is constant” (Wikipedia).

This is not a circle (excuse the rough image editing):
faux circle

So no, sorry Mark, I do not see all 16 circles.


I see the Seventh Circle:


Anyone who knows what to do with those “magic eye” pseudo 3D image things should be able to see this pretty quick. Knowing that they are circles beforehand is a bit too much of a clue though.


Wow, it was easy for me. All you have to do is not see the stripes.


That is merely one definition of a circle. Words often have multiple definitions.


All visual representations of circles are approximations, so I often use the term “circle” as shorthand for “shape that suggests a platonic ideal of a circle.”


Can anyone see them simultaneously?
It took me a long time to see the circles, but now that I know where they are I can slightly defocus and see the rectangles and the circles at the same time. I can’t seem to do the same with the faces illusion on the same page though.