This wild optical illusion is driving TikTok dotty

TikTok is absolutely full of optical illusions these days. Visual mind benders seem to be almost as popular on the platform as dance routines and videos of Maxwell the Cat. But here's one that's driving people absolutely dotty. 

The viral video shows a grid of intersecting grey lines with 12 dots spread among them. But it seems almost impossible to see all of the dots at once, and people want answers (see our pick of the best optical illusions for more mind-benders).


Nobody can see all of them! 🤯🤯

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The 12 dots in the image are there permanently but they appear to flitter in and out of existence, with only the dot that we're focusing on being clearly visible at any one time. It's an optical illusion that's been confusing people for years, but fortunately, they are answers in the scientific paper that it originated in, which was published by Jaques Ninio and Kent Stevens way back in the year 2000.

The black dot in the centre of your vision will usually be fairly clearly visible appear but the others seem to appear and disappear because we have fairly limited peripheral vision. Our brains fill in the detail on the edges of what enters our field of view, and confronted with a very regular pattern of lines, it assumes the surrounding image to be more of the same.

Another factor that makes the dots difficult to see is the amount of grey at the intersections where they're placed. This creates less contrast at those points, with more grey than white. This helps to obscure the small black dot in our peripheral version.

We've seen plenty of other mind-bending optical illusions on TikTok on recently, including the work of an artist who's turned an entire barn into a walk-in optical illusion work of art. See more in our pick of the best optical illusions of 2022.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.