The Waterfall Illusion

Analysis 48 (June):142-47 (1988)
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If you stare for a period of time at a scene which contains movement in one direction, and then turn your attention to an object in a scene which contains no movement, this object will appear to move in the opposite direction to that of the original movement. The effect can be easily achieved by attaching a piece of paper with a spiral drawn on it to the spinning turntable of a record player, and then turning the turntable off while continuing to look at the spiral (see Frisby 1979, pp. 100-101 for a detailed descrip- tion of how to bring this about). But the illusion of movement can also occur when looking at a waterfall, for instance, and turning one's attention away from the waterfall to a stationary object such as a stone; hence its name - the 'Waterfall Illusion'.

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Tim Crane
Central European University


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