B or 13: Context Optical Illusion

Just like Colin (the person who submit this flick), I have seen this illusion many years ago. After a while, it kept following me throughout the internet, and I was bumping on it in regular time intervals. Somehow, I never felt it was complex enough to post on this site. The problem was that it was a static image, with both vertical 12, 13, 14 and horizontal A, B, C printed at same time. Luckily, Colin found this very same illusion, but in animated mode. It works much better, I think.

Unfortunately, if you are following us through “Optical Illusion of The Day” widget (those of you who missed it, be sure to get it here) you won’t see an animation – instead a static pic. This is a modification we’ve recently added to keep the apps stable.

Anyway, as simple and beautiful it is, this illusion clearly shows how CONTEXT plays a crucial role in our understanding of what we see. Can you force yourself to see the sequence as 12, B, 14 or A, 13, C instead? This is what Colin added to his submission:

I remember seeing this illusion many years ago at school. When the animated GIF plays, the B/13 in the centre remains exactly the same. It’s your brain who changes the context it’s seeing it in, and reads it differently – Colin

26 Replies to “B or 13: Context Optical Illusion”

  1. I have seen another like this, where the list going in one direction was “USSR, USA, UK”, and the list in the other direction was “MARY, LISA, JANE” with the “LI” in Lisa forming the “U” in USA.

    It’s in a book I have. I’d send it to you but unfortunately I don’t have access to a working scanner.

  2. For Richard Haviland: The right side of the ‘B’ is the ‘3’, and the left side is the ‘1’. Just imagine you’re drawing a line in the middle of the B :)
    Cool illusion! Thanks for showing it!

  3. Vurdlak, I have your widget on my Vista desktop and whenever a new illusion appears, I click on it to see your comments and to look inside the gallery. You said in your comments today that the widget won’t show an animation–instead a static pic-because this is a modification you’ve recently added. Well, your modification is not working in my 64 bit Windows Vista Home Premium-SP2, IE v8, because I see the animated gif file on my desktop widget. I love your site and roam through illusions published in the past whenever I have some time. Keep up the good work.

  4. for some reason that didn’t post the way I originally arranged it. The 12 and 14 should be above and below the B

  5. Wow! That was quite the brain teaser. Not only does the B remain static, but it also is formed out of the elegant script of number 13. Now if you take that B and draw it in a nice capital letter with perceived space between the stem and the front, that B should look like a 13. The A and C on either side trick the mind to see B where it originally saw a 13. The same happens vice a versa. The 12 and 14 push the brain to activate the missing number. I believe this parlor trick only gets incredible when the right calligraphic image is used. I’ll bet it won’t work as well with Old Elizabethan lettering. The flags or caps have to be placed just so. I think this is the same principle that makes an Escher print so mind boggling I checked out some Art Dealers . I looked up some Escher prints online. He has a complete series of works that trick the eye. I feel the letter/number must be drawn perfectly. It must look a certain way for the trick to have the greatest impact. Think about the colon and parenthesis turned to happy :) or :( or sad icons. The world is just full of visual tricks. Sometimes they hide from us and other times the visuals are glaringly apparent.

  6. Most people’s handwriting is illegible enough to create endless variations of this “confusin’ illusion.”

  7. More of a typographical play, than an illusion. Check out the logo for Baskin Robbins (31), similar concept, but inverse.

  8. This reminds me of the book “Deathnote-Another Note: The Los Angelas BB Murder Cases” If you read it, you would understand :)

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