Why your brain makes these dots disappear

Originally published at: Why your brain makes these dots disappear | Boing Boing


Definitely a fun effect. If you hard squint at it the yellow dots remain unmoving, so it’s definitely all eye/brain weirdness.



It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. I’ve done my own research! :wink:


There’s been a fascinating explosion in the number, type, and impressiveness of optical illusions over the past few decades. I’d love to understand how they’re being designed - are scientists piggy-backing off of known cognitive quirks, and optimizing their illusions to exploit them? Or are they just throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall to see what sticks, and discovering new cognitive quirks that way? And what accounts for the sheer number of really, really impressive visual illusions compared to when I was a kid? Does it have something to do with the availability of computer graphics and animation? There’s so much to unpack…


I was stubbornly staring, gritting my teeth, and when they vanished I laughed and they immediately popped back up. (maybe because my head moved a bit?)


That’s very disconcerting. Like something Douglas Adams would describe one’s brain doing.


Cognitive resources are limited. Most sensory processing is about filtering out irrelevant information, which this is illustrating really well. Occasionally we just can’t ignore an ongoing stimulus, but most stimuli deemed irrelevant get filtered out so that we can focus on whats attended to. Instruction to consciously attend to the green dot gives top down signals that it is what matters, and the brain is doing its job and not wasting resources to continually process the yellow dots.

If the brain didn’t do this kind of filtering, all attentional tasks would become way more difficult because we’d be constantly processing irrelevant details of the background. We never sense the world as it really is and we miss most of what is around us, but ultimately that’s a feature not a bug


What was interesting on my phone is how much of the grid background needed to be visible for the effect to happen for me. It was initially cut off and I saw no effects so I started scrolling down and then it happened. Scrolled down so that some of the blue was gone and it stopped.


Might just be me but if you put your face up to the screen and stare intently at just one of the yellow dots it won’t disappear. Spooky.

1 Like

It depends how close you get, if your eye gets partially flattened by pressing against the screen, it becomes difficult to make out anything at that point.


Me five seconds before engaging with the graphic:
pfff, yeah right, I’ll believe it when I see it
Me during the illusion:
Holy Shit! WTF!


Interestingly blinking my eyes while staring at the center dot kept the other from disapearing

1 Like

You can also hold your thumb above the green dot and see that the yellow dots never change then.

For me the bottom dot never disappeared - I wonder it that is because I have one eye that is focused for near vision (about 12") and the other for far vision (about 15’)?

(I have artificial lenses in both eyes and decided that getting wildly different prescriptions in each eye would make it easier to do without glasses sometimes, which it does but I technically am seeing double all the time, but my amazing brain only pays attention to the in focus one, while still seeming to use the blurry one for depth. Brains are weird)


Is it just me??

If I watch this for over a minute I see Bill Gates face!!

1 Like

Astigmatism* apparently makes many illusions not work for me, like the Magic Eye stuff and this one. The dots never disappear.

*When I’m asked, “Are your nearsighted or farsighted?” I reply, “Neither,” and get laughed at, but it’s true. I can’t see distances, and hold books very close while reading. An eye doctor said, “You can’t get around the house without yr glasses or contacts,” and I agreed. My sight was preternaturally good until I had hard measles during kindergarten. Guess it’s my karma for making fun of Scooby Doo’s friend Velma.

I can’t seem to get the yellow dots to disappear either. I have no astigmatism though, just standard myopia.

1 Like

An excellent description of much of what is going on in ADHD brains!

1 Like

Oh, yes. Very same.

One of my cats likes to interact with the TV when something on it catches his attention. I wonder what he would make of this? :scream_cat:
Confused Lil Bub GIF


Mind blown.
Brain okay.