The Bow-Legged Illusion

Our friends over from Deceptology are coming up with some great optical illusions lately. Check out them bow-legged gentlemen on your right for example!

The effect used is relatively simple, one we featured hundreds of times in our Seemingly Bent category. But this time you can see it in more interesting context. The bent lines represent the legs of two gentlemen.

Can you force yourself to see their legs perfectly straight? Even though they appear bent, in reality they’re 100% parallel and straight. If you haven’t realized by now, it’s the checkers background that makes this effect work! This optical illusion originally appeared in 1913, in “Popular Mechanics”.

BTW, hope you had a wonderful New Year’s eve, and I wish you all the best in 2011! Let’s hope our little community does even better than it did in 2010! This time last year I compiled my personal pick of Top 10 Optical Ilusions of 2009. I also did Year’s Recap in numbers. Expect something similar in days to come!

34 Replies to “The Bow-Legged Illusion”

  1. Firstly, assuming the checkerboard background is the same throughout (isn’t it?) why do they appear to bend in different directions? Shouldn’t both sets bend either in or out? And secondly… it looks like the first guy is wearing some sort of high heels :)

    1. It’s because their toes face in different directions. And yes, it does look like the first one is wearing high heels. ^_^

    2. I noticed that too… I thought at first it might be something about their placement on the checkerboard, like the guy on the right’s legs were going directly through the squares, and the guy on the left’s were going between the squares. Except that’s not it as far as I can tell. I think it might be the the lines are ever-so-slightly bent?

  2. They are not vertical straight. they do either curve inwards or outwards..you a use the side of a white paper or a ruler to test it. not sure why they are an illusion.

  3. at first i didnt get it but then after i new what this illusion was about i was easily able to make the legs look straight

  4. As Eduardo says, they actually are not straight lines.

    Each leg is made up of a number of short lines. Each of the short lines is on an angle similar to the “bend” we see in the leg. These short lines almost line up striaght, but there is still a little bend in them. The checkers make us enhance the bend that is already there.

    I’d be interested if this illusion would work if those short lines actually did line up parallel to each other – but presumably each short line would still need to be on the appropriate angle to help create the illusion.

  5. It would be a lot easier to see on a bigger picture.

    Anyway, it’s not the legs I’m worried about, as much as the fact that neither of these gentlemen appear to have abdomens. Their legs begin right where their navels should be!

  6. The legs appear to be bent in different directions because the ‘slashes’ are pointing outwards on the left man, and inward on the right man. Also the direction in which the shoes are pointed help the illusion.

    And they are straight lines, the checkerboard background is consistantly proportionate as is the spacing between all ‘slashes’.

  7. They legs are not lines, but a series of short strokes, which change directions about halfway. It is this change in direction which causes the impression of a curve 8<)

  8. Each line is built by disconnected slashes or backslashes. That’s what creates the bent illusion. It would work without the checkered pattern which is just camouflage.

    If you concentrate on any single line and squint so you can’t see the short lines it is made from, you can make it look straight.

  9. Eduardo is right. The straight line is striped white and black in this order:
    \\
    \\
    \\
    //
    //
    //
    for making it looks bend to the right (inner two legs)
    and like this:
    //
    //
    //
    \\
    \\
    \\
    for making it looks bend to the left (outer two legs)

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