illusions

By Hasna Haidar

Oftentimes in business, our mind turns out to be our most powerful investment. No matter how much of your capital is directed towards personnel, marketing or, indeed, attracting further investors, neglecting your mind can spell catastrophe.

In fact, it could be argued that it’s just as important to make sure your mental health and mental dexterity are being worked on to the same extent as you’re working to improve your sales figures or expand your business. With growing evidence suggesting that CEOs who embrace lifelong learning are better able to adapt to changes in business and the world at large, taking the time to engage your brain could prove invaluable. After all, as Buddha once said, “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.”

Hiding in plain sight: why optical illusions are great for your brain

It’s common knowledge that one way to stretch your brain to its full potential is to give it a challenge. Simply taking ten minutes every day to complete puzzles, quizzes and crosswords could do the trick, but if you want to take things that step further it’s all about embracing visual challenges like this optical illusions quiz. This is because optical illusions can have surprising benefits for your brain that go further that your usual sudoku or word puzzle. These visual puzzles can give you a good mental workout that can, in turn, help you think more efficiently and solve problems more easily.

Test your brain’s health and give it an advantage

Some types of challenges, like the duck versus rabbit illusion and the ‘My Wife and My Mother-in-Law’ illusion, are based upon testing your brain’s ability to interpret ambiguous images. Ambiguous images are named as such because the artist has drawn them so they can be interpreted in more than one way. Both interpretations are usually equally valid, which means there will be no wrong answer. The test, instead, comes with your brain’s ability to see both interpretations.

Ambiguous figures cause the brain to ‘flip’ the way it interprets images. Instead of choosing one interpretation to go with, the brain chooses to switch from one interpretation to another freely. Take, for example, Gianni Sarcone’s Mask of Love illusion. In it, a Venetian mask is presented with an ambiguous image inside it.

While some people may suggest that what you see first represents who you are, the real issue at hand is whether or not you’re able to (eventually) see both images. If your brain is able to flip from one image to the other, it’s at an advantage. Being able to see both images, means the brain now has more information to use as background context for any future images it comes across. Keeping your brain sharp – and particularly its ability to interpret visual information in different ways – could be invaluable next time you’re poring over your latest marketing report and trying to find patterns in customer behaviour.

Illusions encourage better visual literacy

Visual literacy is the name given to our ability to interpret and derive meaning from visual information. When our brains see optical illusions – or any image – it immediately begins to make connections with things we’ve seen in the past and begins to predict the ‘probable’ image and context of what we’re seeing now.

Many popular optical illusions – including the famous Ebbinghaus illusion of multiple coloured dots – give our brains a challenge by presenting this context in a misleading way. By practising our abilities to see past the misleading context, we can train our brain to be more accurate when interpreting images. So next time you’re feeling bamboozled by a highly complex spreadsheet or chart – don’t sit back and think ‘well I’m just not a visual person’, crack on with a few optical illusion puzzles instead and train yourself to be one.

Whatever type of illusions you prefer, one thing’s certain: their fun, mind-boggling nature help ensure that training your brain is never a chore. And because optical illusions are designed with different possible – often equally valid – interpretations, they encourage the kind of ‘thinking outside the box’ mentality that can be vital for business success. As the old saying goes: “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”

Hasna Haidar, who is a freelance writer who specialises in technology, business and the digital world.

Optical illusions stock photo by lotan/Shutterstock