A new kind of visual illusion uncovers how our brains connect the dots: 'Scintillating starburst' offers insights into visual processing

A new type of illusion was created by a psychologist researcher and a visual artist. It demonstrates the positive nature of visual perception.The illusion, called "Scintillating starburst" by its creators, evokes the illusion of illusory stars that shimmer or scintillate like a starburst. The images are composed of multiple concentric star polygons. They make viewers see bright, fleeting rays from the center."The research shows how the brain 'connects' the dots to create a subjective reality. This highlights the constructive nature of perception," says Pascal Wallisch, a clinical assistant professor at New York University's Department of Psychology, Center for Data Science, and senior author of this paper. It appears in the journal i-Perception."Studying illusions can help us understand visual processing because we can distinguish the mere sensations of physical object properties and the perceptual experience," says Michael Karlovich, first author and CEO of Recursia Studios. This multidisciplinary production company specializes in art and fashion.Although the illusion's visual effects are similar to some grid-based illusions, the authors admit that they are not identical in appearance. Their Scintillating Starburst, however, is unlike other visual illusions. It evokes a variety of new effects.Researchers conducted a series experiments with over 100 people to better understand how this illusion is processed. They viewed 162 different versions the Scintillating Starburst. These varied in form, complexity, brightness, and shape.Participants in research were then asked questions about their perceptions. For instance, they could be asked "I don't see any brightlines, rays or beams," or "I might see brightlines, rays or beams but they are barely visible," or "I see brightlines, rays or beams but they are subtle, weak."The confluence between several factors such as contrast, line width and number of vertices is important according to the authors.Wallisch observes that a greater number of intersection points can lead to more powerful and vivid rays because there are more cues to show the implied lines.This research demonstrates how the brain "connects" the dots to create subjective reality. It also reveals the constructive nature and power of perception.