Quantifying and modeling the strength of motion illusions perceived in static patterns

Johannes M Zanker, Frouke Hermens, Robin Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The origin of motion illusions in simple black and white patterns such those as used by Op artists has been at the center of a lively scientific debate, relating motion processing mechanisms to involuntary eye movements that generate characteristic motion patterns. To overcome the limitations of using subjective ratings as a measure of illusory effects, we developed a new method to quantify the strength of the illusion for synthetic 'riloids' that were inspired by Bridget Riley's 'Fall'. In a 2AFC paradigm, test stimuli were compared to a reference set of patterns that elicit illusory motion of variable strength. We found that pattern parameters influencing the distribution of local orientation in the riloids (the amplitude and the spatial period of the line undulation) systematically affect illusion strength, whereas other parameters, such as the spatial period of the lines themselves, the duration of the stimulus, or fixation conditions, have little effect. These behavioral data are compared in computer simulations to the predicted activity generated by motion detector networks for displacements of the riloids that reflect small eye movements. The match between predicted illusion strength and experimental data support an explanation of the motion illusion in terms of retinal image shifts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13.1-14
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Eye Movements/physiology
  • Fixation, Ocular/physiology
  • Humans
  • Illusions/physiology
  • Judgment/physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion Perception/physiology
  • Photic Stimulation/methods
  • Visual Fields/physiology


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