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Category Archive: Illusion

How to Spell Pareidolia

Our friend Ned Block sent us a very timely Monty cartoon (by Jim Meddick) in response to our Monday’s blog post on pareidolia illusions:

by Jim Meddick

Ouija boards have even more to do with the ideomotor effect than with pareidolia, as we discuss in our book Sleights of Mind. But it’s still a funny cartoon!

See what pareidolia is all about on our September/October Scientific American Mind’s Illusions column:


A Faithful Resemblance

When seeing is believing

By Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik


Send us your favorite jokes about neuroscience or illusions, and we’ll post them here.

-Susana Martinez-Conde 

Illusion of the Week: Taxidermy Dreams

Wednesday is Illusion Day. Every Wednesday, we feature a contemporary illusion, or a variation on a classic illusion.

This week’s pick is an interesting twist on the Rabbit-Duck illusion, presented in the German magazine Fliegende Blätter in 1892.

I haven’t been able to locate the precise source, but here’s how you make a rabbit-duck in real life (death?) with a little help from taxidermy.

Image from the blog Blame it on the Voices

Do you see a rabbit or a duck?

Also, check the Duck! Rabbit! animation of Amy Krause Rosenthal’s children’s book, and John F. Kihlstrom discussion of the history of the Rabbit-Duck illusion.


-Susana Martinez-Conde

Illusions Column on Pareidolia

“Face on Mars” photographed by Viking 1

Steve and I  write the Illusions column for Scientific American Mind. Our article in the September/October issue, already released, discusses pareidolia: a type of illusion in which a vague or random stimulus seems distinct and meaningful.

A preview of the article is available on the Scientific American website.



A Faithful Resemblance

When seeing is believing

By Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik


Also, don’t miss Phil Plait’s disquieting account of showering with Lenin.

What’s your favorite pareidolia?


-Susana Martinez-Conde

Black Art in Dance

Sleights of Mind features a wonderful group of French magicians, The Ostrowsky family, who produce a show called “Omar Pasha“. Its a wonderful and mystical show in which the protagonist magically manipulates objects and people on stage. Everything appears and disappears to the notes of Bolero. The inevitable decapitations and recapitations proceed seamlessly, and right before your very eyes, as you watch from the audience. To find out more, read Sleights of Mind.

But in the meantime, check out this related new dance video by Fighting Gravity, from their America’s Got Talent! appearance, in which a group of dancer’s uses magical Black Art methods in a new and exciting dance exhibition.

Fighting Gravity — America’s Got Talent! 2010