How are there 16 circles in this optical illusion?

From rotating horses to levitiating boats, we have seen so many weird, wonderful and wacky optical illusions, here at Creative Bloq. Today's find has left me feeling utterly perplexed, and has left the internet asking – are those squares or circles?

The baffling image was shared by Dr Gavin Buckingham over on Twitter and challenged users to spot the 16 circles in the image of rectangles. This illusion is so good that back in 2006, it was placed top ten in the Illusion of the Year contest (most recently won by the Phantom Queen illusion). And seeing as it ranked so highly back then, maybe we should add this brain-frazzler to the roundup of our favourite optical illusions.

The Coffer illusion

(Image credit: Anthony Norcia)

The trick to spotting the circles is to apparently look between the squares. While I spent ages hunting actual circles in the design, what you're actually looking for is striped monochrome circles. Thankfully, Buckingham has pointed out where to spot the circles (see below)

The mind-bender was designed by artist Anthony Norcia and is named the Coffer Illusion. According to the IllusionsIndex, our ability to see a switch in the shapes is because our "visual experience of the figure changes when the perspectival switch takes place between seeing the circles versus not seeing them, or the experience itself does not change, and it is some post-experiential belief, judgment, or another mental process which changes". Right. Crystal clear then.

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It's quite a complex design and now my head is spinning with all these black and white shapes. It reminds me of the incredible art installation that was both a square and a circle depending on which angle you looked at it. And all these black and white shapes remind me of that confusing bar optical illusion

I think I might have to take a nap in a dark room to stop my head from spinning thanks to this illusion. However, if you're thirsty for some more, then you'll love these Trompe l'oiel illusions. And if you're feeling inspired, why not make your own? Just follow these simple steps in our guide on how to make a 3D optical illusion.

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Amelia Bamsey
Staff Writer

Amelia is Creative Bloq’s Staff Writer. After completing a degree in Popular Music and a Master’s in Song Writing, Amelia began designing posters, logos, album covers and websites for musicians. She now enjoys covering a range of topics on Creative Bloq, including posters, optical illusions, logos (she's a particular fan of logo Easter eggs), gaming and illustration. In her free time, she relishes in the likes of art (especially the Pre-Raphaelites), photography and literature. Amelia prides herself on her unorthodox creative methods, her Animal Crossing island and her extensive music library.