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Visual Illusions: Catching the Brain Creating Reality

Thursday, February 2, 2023
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm EST

Visual illusions, from magic tricks to images that have sparked internet feuds, are providing scientists with evolving insight into the complex act of seeing. Illusions play with the way our eyes and our brains work together and help establish that what we “see” is shaped by everything from light and eye movement to the influence of expectation, memory and desire.

Neuroscientists Susana Martinez-Conde and Rodrigo Quian Quiroga and psychologist Emily Balcetis are among those using illusions to catch the brain in the act of interpreting and sometimes misinterpreting what the eye takes in. In conversation with Brian Greene, they discuss illusions involving everything from celebrity photos to police dash cam tapes to mind bending images that broke the internet.

This program is part of the Big Ideas series, supported by the John Templeton Foundation.


Brian GreenePhysicist, Author

Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, and is recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in his field of superstring theory. His books, The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality, have collectively spent 65 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

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Susana Martinez-CondeNeuroscientist

Susana Martinez-Conde is a neuroscientist and Professor at the State University of New York. She is best known for her studies on illusions, eye movements and perception, neurological disorders, and attentional misdirection in stage magic.

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Rodrigo Quian QuirogaNeuroscientist

Rodrigo Quian Quiroga is a Neuroscientist and former Director of the Centre for Systems Neuroscience at the University of Leicester, UK. He is currently an ICREA Professor at the Hospital …

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Emily BalcetisSocial Psychologist

Emily Balcetis is an Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University. She studies how our motivations, emotions, and goals can shape, and even can change our visual perception. Her …

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