How does our brains trick ourselves that a piece of reality that is totally different from what it actually is should take on properties that we are familiar with as real?”
The researchers were inspired to study mental illusions by observing how their behavior influences others. In one study, study participants were given a choice between two items: a red and a blue ball. The participants were then asked to judge whether it was more pleasant for the blue ball to bounce off the red ball than for it to bounce off the blue ball. Participants correctly assigned the balls to the correct condition. When told it was an illusion. they also overestimated the probability that the ball would be more likely to hit the red ball than its chance of hitting the blue ball.
“People tend to make choices in the way they expect others to choose them,” says Leppänen.
In another study, researchers manipulated the experience of someone who was experiencing the color blue on a computer screen from a very real sky. Participants who were asked to think that the light was changing their perception of the color were more likely to report that the light actually changed the color of the sky.
“In this study we show how illusions can affect the behavior of human beings to a large degree,” says Leppänen. “The results demonstrate that people can be fooled about very basic and fundamental things that appear as though they are very clear, simple principles.”
The research was funded in part by the Max Planck Society, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and the European Research Council.
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