In 1804 Dr. Troxler discovered he could make pastel dots disappear if he stared at them. Blink, and they would reappear. Trace puts Amy to the test…will she experience the Troxler Effect?
Welcome to Brain Junk, I’m Amy Barton, and I’m Trace Kerr, and it’s time for a Brain Storm.
TK: Alright, so in order to do this, here’s what I need you to do. I need you to look at the little black dot in the middle of the screen and kind of unfocus your eyes. And while you’re doing that, I’m going to describe what’s there. On the screen Amy’s looking at it’s kind of blurry pastels. And just keep looking and try to not have your eyes move. You just want to look right at that middle dot and let me know if you notice anything happening.
AB: They disappear. All of the spots. Now my eyes just got tired,
TK: And then you blink, right?
AB: But they were almost completely gone.
TK: K-you going to do it again?
AB: I’m going to try.
TK: What you’re experiencing is something called the Troxler Effect. If your eyes arent’ moving back and forth the colors fade away and it looks like you’re looking at a blank sheet.
AB: Yellow goes away first. Blue goes away last, that’s weird!
TK: Then it’s just a blank sheet, right?
AB: Yes! I don’t hold still well enough, and my distance, and bifocals, and old people.
TK: The first time I did it I couldn’t believe it. My mouth just fell wide open.
AB: Buyt then the second time I tried it I could do it faster. It’s almost like you have a skill now. You’ve got a little magic like those old, what re those old pixelated art?
TK: Oh! Yes.
AB: It’s a similar kiund of thing where you see the picture if you relax your eyes.
TK: I could never get those to work.
AB: Me either.
TK: Cause I can’t get my eyes to relax. And Chas’s problem is that his eyes keep bouncing around. So let’s explain the optical illusion called the Troxler Effect. It’s named after a Swiss physician Ignats Paul Vital Troxler.
AB: That’s a good name.
TK: Right? So in 1804 Troxler discovered that certain colors, pastel colors in particular, have a sneaky habit of disappearing when he looked them for a long period of time. I can just imagine the first time this happened. He tought he was probably going blind.
AB: Yeah-you shake you head and then ahhh!
TK: And then it’s there, but then it’s gone. So what’s happening is that when we stare at something for long enough your brian is like ‘K, it’s just too much material, I can’t keep looking at this’ and it kind of fades it. But if you shift your view for even a second..
AB: It’s back.
TK: Here’s something freaky. If our eyes didn’t naturally bounce around all the time, this would happen whenever we looked at anything.
AB: You’d be standing waiting for the light to turn green forever.
TK: Yeah, because it would just kind of fade out. But our eyes do naturally bounce and jiggle around because we are taking in all our surroundings. But when you are focused on that pictrure, I find that if I do it too many times, you know my eyes start to water and I have to blink weird, because I have to think about it. You know it’s like when you try to think about breathing.
TK:And you start getting kind of dizzy…
AB: You’re messing with autonomic processes!
TK: I don’t know what to do! I have on the website, or you can just put in “Troxler Effect” and you will find tons of these pictures. You should absolutely go look it up and give it a shot.
AB: I’m going to try and go make other stuff in my world, like I’m going to go find a focal point and see what I can make disappear.
TK: It helps if it’s pastel.
AB: Wow! That’s excellent.
TK: Why thank you!
AB: Love those brain things.
AB: we’re on Facebook and Instagram as BrainJunkPodcast and you can find us on Twitter as @MyBrainJunk. Trace and I will catch you next time when we share more of everything you never knew you wanted to know, and I guarantee you will not be bored.