The Hering illusion is one of the geometrical-optical illusions and was discovered by the German physiologist Ewald Hering in 1861. When two straight and parallel lines are presented in front of radial background, the lines appear as if they were bowed outwards.
There are several possible explanations for why perceptual distortion produced by the radiating pattern. The illusion was ascribed by Hering to an overestimation of the angle made at the points of intersection. If true, it is interesting that what yields is the straightness of the parallel lines and not of the radiating lines, implying that there is a hierarchical ordering among components of such illusion.
A different framework suggests that the Hering illusion (and several other geometric illusions) are caused by temporal delays with which the visual system must cope. In this framework, the visual system extrapolates current information to “perceive the present”: instead of providing a conscious image of how the world was ~100 ms in the past (when signals first struck the retina), the visual system estimates how the world is likely to look in the next moment. In the case of the Hering illusion, the radial lines trick the visual system into thinking it is moving forward. Since we are not actually moving and the figure is static, we misperceive the straight lines as curved—as they would appear in the next moment.
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