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  • Nicholas J. Johnson

I accidentally turned my studio into an Escher painting

I painted the wall of my studio the other week and sent a photo to my friend Pablo.

A few minutes later he responded: "WHY IS YOUR DOOR ON AN MC ESCHER ANGLE?"

I took another look at the photo and—sure enough—the door looked seriously wonky.

In real life, the door on the left-hand side is normal door size and shape. In fact, it is identical to the open door on the right-hand side of the photo.

So what happened?

While the doors are rectangular, the wall is not. The roof pitches up to the right meaning the wall on the right is a metre taller than the wall on the left.

The door on the left is much further away from the door on the right, creating the illusion the two doors are the same size.

What I find most fascinating about this illusion is that it reinforces our bias towards right angles and quadrilaterals.

Our brains tend to see cubes, squares, and rectangles as 'normal' and other shapes as 'abnormal.'

This is some evidence to suggest that this is cultural bias.

Remember the Muller-Lyer Illusion?

Why does the line at the top look shorter than the line at the bottom?

Psychologists theorise that your brain sees that the two lines are the same size but perceives the top line as being "closer" and therefore smaller.

In 1901, neurologist W. H. R. Rivers noted that indigenous people on Murray Island were less susceptible to the Müller-Lyer illusion than were Europeans.

Because quadrilaterals didn't play a large role in their lives, their brains were not trained to make the same assumptions as Europeans who had spent their living in rectangular rooms and looking at rectangular houses, pictures, books and boxes.

While this theory has its critics, it is still fascinating to consider all the factors that colour our perception of the world around us.

Speaking of colour: what do you think of the wall?


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