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By on January 6, 2011, with 45 Comments

Along with professor George Alvarez, graduate student Jordan Suchow from Department of Psychology at Harvard University made a new discovery in the filed of optical illusions. The paper titled Motion silences awareness of visual change was published in Current Biology on January 6, 2011 (PDF here). The effect is called Silencing, and it demonstrates how surprisingly hard it is to notice when moving objects change.

It seems that people are remarkably bad at noticing when moving objects change in brightness, color, size, or shape. The researchers present a new visual illusion that “causes objects that had once been obviously dynamic to suddenly appear static,” and that “demonstrates the tight coupling of motion and object appearance.” The results have implications for everything from video game design to the training of pilots.

Play the movie below, while looking at the small white speck in the center of the ring. At first, the ring is motionless and it’s easy to tell that the dots are changing color. When the ring begins to rotate, the dots suddenly appear to stop changing. But in reality they are changing the entire time. Take a look, it’s marvelous!

  • glp

    one of the most fantastic illusions ive ever seen, simply because its something ive never seen before. This is definatley brand new in the optical illusion world. Everything always seems to be a play on some other well known optical illusion. This one is entirely unique and new, at least to me, and like many of your site viewers, ive seen thousands and thousands of illusions and very few of them really impress me like this one does

  • http://www.jandrich.dial.pipex.com Rich Saunders

    How incredible! Only if you look at the ring, not the dot in the centre, when it’s moving can you tell it’s still changing. I had to do it to believe it was true.

  • http://www.foxnews.com Vincent Van Goh

    Maybe it doesn’t work right in Google Chrome, but I get a lot of black boxes in the animation.

  • Some Asian

    didn’t really work for me….maybe it’s just me

    • Random gal

      It doesnt work for me becaouse i can still see, some colours changing..am i soposed to see that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jen-Steffen/619055478 Jen Steffen

    I could still see the dots changing color, but the rate of changing seemed to slow way down, no doubt due to the motion of the circle. Cool.

  • Anonomus

    This allusion was dumb it didn’t work on me I kept starring at the white speck and noticed the whole way through they were changing

  • LGD

    Very, very, very cool!!

  • onyxfairy

    i didnt see the illusion >^< they seemed like they were changing the whole time!!! that makes me sad '^'

  • a

    very elegant illusion

  • Matt

    The effect of the changing colors would be lessened when you look at the dot in the middle, but I can still see the colors change.

  • luke

    i’m very interested in the video game possibilities, maybe a new “hardest game ever” where the moving dots change colour between those that kill you and those that need to be collected…..nobody steal my idea!

  • ohmygosh

    it sucks cause i have to wait for the whole thing to load before i can watch it! and thats the same if i want it to replay.

    But that is still pretty cool, though i have seen similar ones before.

  • ohmygosh

    and, if you concentrate very hard on our peripheral vision, you can still see the dots change when it rotates.

  • Slammer

    Wow ya this sure seems totally new which makes it really intriguing. I bet that in in a few years someone will find some sort of ingenious, practical use for this effect. Crowd control via diversion or something ridiculously incredible like that. Cool illusion!!! I wonder if you could do something similar with sound…

  • Crystal

    I didn’t get the illusion, I saw movement the entire time while looking at the center white dot or focusing on the outer ring. I watched it 6 times just to be sure, but never got the ‘stop motion’/appearance of the dynamic dots being static. Am I just weird? Have too many 3D movies changed me?! LOL

  • Bryce

    Amazing!

  • layne

    i could definatly tell they were still changing :P

  • Daniela

    just AMAZING !!! I absolutely loved it :P

  • josephine

    You can still tell that some of them are changing, just not all of them

  • http://xaotikdesigns.com Adam

    I could tell that they were changing.

  • A Snail

    Very effective. I did notice about 5 dots change whilst the dots where in motion, but they only changed one colour and not as rapidaly as when stopped.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Debby-Eaton/713506395 Debby Eaton

    Brilliant, I could not believe it was really happening so had to look at the dots to make sure they were really changing.

  • Florin

    I se them change but slower.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jens-Hykkelbjerg/100000809227264 Jens Hykkelbjerg

    Wow … nuff said…

    First time i saw it I couldn’t see any change in the colours while I concentrated on the white spot. I had to watch the video several times, picking out one dot at a time to convince myself that they were in fact still changing while they were moving. Now that I’ve seen it a few times, I can more and more easily see that they are in fact changing even when concentrating on the central spot, but it’s very hard to convince myself that they are still changing just as fast as when they are not moving

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anadi-Kulkarni/642890304 Anadi Kulkarni

    AAH!! THE LINKS BELOW YOUR ARTICLES LEAD TO TOO MUCH PROCRASTINATION!

  • Janelle McDermott

    love this, very impressive

  • glp

    For those saying it doesnt work, your missing the point. It isnt supposed to make the dots appear to stop changing colors, its suppose to make the color changing less appearant to your eyes. When the dots are stationary, the colors appear to be wildly changing. But when the dots move the color changing appears to lessen and take longer for each dot to change. However, there was no change in color changing. Its only your eyes playing tricks on you. Of course you will see the colors change when they are moving, but i think anyone will agree, it is drastically different from stationary to moving. And if its not, you are either lying, or you are focusing hard on noticing the changes. That defeat sthe purpose of the illusion.

  • Ryan

    Man that was cool, When i focussed on the white middle dot I didn’t see it change (besides the red to orange and back). But if you focus on one particular dot, it’s easy to see it change. Cool!

  • thebrainster

    i can’t make it work… it’s maybe just me or the video’s too short, but they keep in color, and changing

  • lgf

    I can see some changing even while rotating and watching teh center white dot.

  • DetectiveKitty

    i still noticed changing…just less changing…but it is an interesting concept….

  • http://www.moillusions.com KcurtThang1

    Ummmmmm. . . . I kindaa dntt gehtt ihdd , buhdd wahtevas

  • LadyOpinx

    People…the lesson of this should be…Pay Attention! Be In The Moment…lest Someone in the Periphery Slip One Past you.

    Something to Ponder.

    *Bright Blessings*

  • http://jeredspottery.com Jered

    Interesting and it seems that magicians have been making use of this for a very long time.

  • http://jaynellzfosho.tumblr.com/ Jenelle

    I noticed some changes, like the green ones.

  • Stephen

    I actually noticed the colors changing through out the whole video. I didn’t notice as many changes while the ring was moving, but i did see them.

  • Michael

    The rate of change in color DID SLOW DOWN when the ring began to rotate forwards and backwards. This was not a true optical illusion, only very well engineered to look like one.

  • http://hotmail.com Margaret

    I can see a few colors changing…

  • Hannah

    i don’t understand it

  • seattle L

    i don’t its colors changing

  • Karina

    I would like to see this experiment done when the rate at which the color keeps changing slows down a lot more during the time the ring is moving. Redo this illusion with the ring spinning the whole time and change the speed at which the color changes to see if that makes a difference in noticing it

  • Matt

    Just turn your head with the movement and you can see the colors changing.

  • Dale

    Why doesn’t this work for me! I was soooo excited, but I can see the dots changing even when they are moving, and I am looking at the center dot :(

  • Topher Cooper

    This may be a new illusion to the perceptual science community and the optical illusion collector community but it is a very old (and important) illusion to what might be called the illusion community.

    The stereotypical statement about prestidigitation is “The hand is quicker than the eye”, but this is said by magicians as part of their deception — its nonsense and magicians know it is.

    The real principle — probably the most fundamental principle of sleight of hand — is generally stated as “A large motion masks a small one” (though its generally understood that what is masked is almost any change). This is why — in addition to just trying to impress, or distract from something happening elsewhere — that magicians make elaborate gestures.

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