This picture has NO red pixels. Great demo of color constancy (ht Akiyoshi Kitaoka) pic.twitter.com/pZHvbB6QHE— Matt Lieberman (@social_brains) February 27, 2017
Did thinking about that blue-gold dress illusion make your head hurt? Still struggling to figure out why those seemingly different colored hearts are all the same? Prepare thyself for the newest optical illusion to stir mistrust of the processing going on between your ears. Say hello to the stupefying "these strawberries are not red" trick, courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka, professor of psychology at Ritsumeikan University in Japan:
Seeing red? Me too. Unlike the dress illusion, this is one trick that makes everyone shake their head for the same reason: We all think we see the same color, only there's not a pixel worth of red in this image. In fact, were you to load it into a photo editing program, all that would register would be various shades of blue and grey.
@social_brains I isolated a few of the colors that appear most "red" in the strawberries and put them on the white background to the right. pic.twitter.com/GJJ9PJqNxt
— Carson Mell (@carsonmell) February 28, 2017
So why are our brains telling us one thing when the reality is something completely different?
The optical illusion is triggering a phenomenon called "color constancy." Because our brains know strawberries are supposed to be red, they compensate for the blue tone and correct the image. According to ScienceAlert, this kind of on-the-fly image correction is vital for perceiving the world around us in different wavelengths of light. Without color constancy, our brains would register objects as different colors under all kinds of lighting conditions — from the glow of a night-light to the flicker of a campfire.
"Our brain computes this all of this information to account for lighting and essentially sees red. This phenomenon provides us with the ability to see colours almost invariable across changes in lighting conditions, such as outdoors versus indoors," Juno Kim, who focuses on sensory processes, perception and performance at the University of New South Wales, told ScienceAlert.
But wait, there's more ...
A little digging online gifted me another example of color constancy, and it may just be more maddening than the strawberries. In the image below, believe it or not, both squares labeled A and B are the same color.
According to MIT professor Edward Adelson, who created the illusion, the "visual system uses several tricks to determine where the shadows are and how to compensate for them, in order to determine the shade of gray 'paint' that belongs to the surface."
To sum up: nothing is real and we're all living in the Matrix.