The “Rotating Snakes” illusion is a fascinating optical illusion created by Japanese psychology professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka in 2003. Despite being a static image, it creates the compelling illusion of motion, leading observers to perceive the circular patterns of “snakes” as rotating continuously.
The illusion is composed of several “snakes” or concentric circles formed by alternating patterns of light and dark squares, which progress in a gradient from one color to another. These patterns are arranged in a particular order that plays a crucial role in inducing the illusion of motion.
This illusory motion effect is most commonly believed to be a result of a phenomenon known as the peripheral drift illusion. This phenomenon is more noticeable in your peripheral vision (i.e., when you’re not looking directly at it) and is generally seen as moving in a dark-to-light direction. So, when you’re looking at one part of the image, the “snakes” in your peripheral vision seem to move.
Several theories have been proposed to explain why this illusion occurs. One widely accepted theory is that it’s related to differences in the speed of processing between the light and dark areas of the image in our visual system. The idea is that our brains process darker images slightly slower than lighter ones. When this differential processing is combined with the specific arrangement of the colors in the image, it creates the illusion of motion.
The “Rotating Snakes” illusion serves as a powerful reminder of the complexity of our visual perception system and its ability to interpret static images as dynamic, revealing fascinating insights into the workings of human vision.