This optical illusion can show you the future – sort of

Optical illusion
(Image credit: Frontiers of Human Neuroscience)

We've seen plenty of weird and wonderful optical illusions here at Creative Bloq, usually involving things that look like they're moving (but aren't), or things that look like they're a certain colour (but aren't), or things that look like they're a certain shape, but – you get the idea. But this is the first that can claim to show you the future – kind of.

Doing the rounds online right now is a 'black hole' illusion that tricks the viewer into seeing a black 'blob' expanding towards them. Except it isn't expanding at all – the viewer's brain is telling you what it thinks is about to happen. (Looking for more inspiration? Check out the best optical illusions of all time.)

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According to a comprehensive report in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal, over 86% of people who look at the illusion see the shape expanding. "The circular smear or shadow gradient of the central black hole evokes a marked impression of optic flow, as if the observer were heading forward into a hole or tunnel,” the journal explains. “The visual neural compensation network predicts how the stimulus would change in the next moment and generates an illusory ‘outward expansion’ of the central ‘hole’ region.”

This is a fairly new phenomenon in the world of optical illusions. It causes the pupils to dilate, and according to the researchers, the participants who reported seeing the most pronounced expansion had their pupils dilate the greatest. But don't get too excited – this isn't a time machine. The study claims we're only seeing 100 milliseconds into the future – that's how much the eye is 'tricked' into perceiving a change of light that isn't actually happening.

This is by no means the first time we've seen an illusion that proves you shouldn't always believe your eyes. Earlier this year, one example went viral in which eye colours appeared to be very different from their actual hue. Still, nothing will ever quite impress us as much as that infamous rotating horse.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.