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Psychological Exercises


Experiential Exercises Which Illustrate
Our Perceptual Fallibility

James Neill
Last updated:
27 Jun 2004


  • People never cease to be marveled by exercises which  illustrate how automated and limited human perceptions can be.

  • As William James put it, “whilst part of what we perceive comes through our senses from the object before us, another part (and it may be the larger part) always comes out of our own mind”

  • Optical illusions and cognitive deceptions can be used as experiential exercises to:

    o       provide convenient windows into how the brain works;

    o       help people become aware of the hidden constraints of the visual system in a way that normal perception fails to do

    o       show how psychology can be a fun tool to help people learn about themselves

  • To conduct an experiential session for people to explore some of the ways their mind perceives, download and print out the 25-page Word document, which contains:

    • Introduction

    • Background reading

    • Answer sheet

    • 17 optical illusions and cognitive deceptions, 1 per page

  • Sitting in a circle, provide a basic introduction to illusions and hand out the answer sheets.  Then pass the illusions out, allowing participants to spend ~90 secs studying and answering each one, then passing it on to the next person.  At the end, discuss the answers and the implications for understanding the human mind.

Equipment: Download Illusions: Experiential Exercises [25 pages; .doc; .4 MB]
Illusions: Answer Guide
[5 pages; .doc; .05 MB].

Time: ~40 mins - 60 mins

Brief description:

People never cease to be marveled by optimal illusions and cognitive deception exercises.  This activity provides 17 illusions which can be used to experientially illustrate how the human mind perceives and structures the world.