The Yellow Circle in This Optical Illusion Isn’t Actually Yellow

Optical illusions have a way of showing us how our brain works. Now, an image created by Japanese experimental psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka is another lesson in how we process color. In one of his latest images, captioned “illusory yellow,” we see three overlapping circles in cyan, magenta, and yellow, just like you'd see in representations of the CMYK model. But upon closer inspection, it turns out there's no actual yellow pigmentation in the bottom right circle. The color is is made in our mind.

So why do we see a yellow circle if it's not actually there? The answer lies in subtractive color mixing, or the perception of color produced by the absorption of light by other colors. If you zoom in on the image, you'll realize what you first thought was a yellow circle is actually a series of black lines on a white background. These lines follow the same pattern as those on the rest of the image, but the others are bright blue.

The illusion of yellow is then produced by those black and white stripes in an area surrounded by blue stripes. In addition to that, what passes for the green area—where blue and yellow supposedly meet— is actually made up of cyan and black. Further proving this, Twitter user Mab Newemka showed that the two other color discs are not even necessary for this illusion to happen. Dragging a circle made up of black stripes onto a blue-striped background makes a yellow circle appear almost by magic.

To see more mind-bending optical illusions, follow Kitaoka on Twitter.

This image created by Akiyoshi Kitaoka is a lesson in how we process color. We see three intertwined circles—cyan, magenta, and yellow. But upon closer inspection, turns out there's no yellow in the bottom right circle.

The answer lies in subtractive color mixing, or the perception of color produced by the absorption of light by other colors.

h/t: [Neatorama]

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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