3 Your Eyes Change the Way Food Tastes
Unless you have some type of brain disorder or are currently tripping balls on LSD, you probably don't worry too much about questions like "How do colors taste?" and "How do flavors look?" Well, maybe you should. As impossible as it sounds, your eyes even have the power of determining how stuff tastes to you ... and we don't just mean that you get hungrier for food that "looks" appetizing. It's much stranger than that.
For instance, if you know anything about wine, you're aware of how different experts consider red and white wine to be -- they're served in different glasses, paired with totally different foods, and kept at different temperatures. Well, in one study, food scientists gathered the members of a London wine club and asked them to describe the flavor of a glass of white wine. At first, they came up with flavors normally associated with that type of wine, like banana, passion fruit, and bell pepper. However, when the scientists took the same wine and colored it red, the tasters suddenly reported flavors associated with red wine. Again, it was the exact same thing they'd just tasted, only with a different color.
This may be closely related to the fact that wine tasters are full of crap.
But maybe that particular wine club sucked, or was actually full of drunks? Nope, the same experiment has been repeated several times, always with wine experts, and always with the same hilarious results. One time, the victims were oenology students at a French university -- they literally studied wine all day, and they were still fooled by a simple change of color. Another time, one of Spain's foremost wine tasters took his time to describe the flavor of a glass of white wine dyed red ... but only because he was trying to decide which particular red-berry fruit best defined it.
Pretentious wine drinkers aren't the only ones fooled by this effect. We've mentioned before that the color of a glass can affect how hot or cold we perceive the liquid inside to be. Well, in another study, people rated hot chocolate as having a more "chocolaty" flavor when served in an orange or cream-colored cup. And this goes for food, too: People rated strawberry mousse as tasting sweeter if it was served on a white plate versus a black plate.
Unfortunately, you're still a terrible cook, regardless of plate color.
That's how much pull your sense of vision has inside your brain: It's able to just shove your sense of taste aside and say, "Nope, that's not vagrant piss, that's tasty lemonade." OK, no one's actually tried that in a study. Yet.
2 Your Brain Changes the Size of Objects Around You
Your eyes are lying to you right now about something as basic as the size of the stuff you're looking at. Don't believe us? Take a look at the photograph below, and tell us which of the two vertical red lines is longer in your monitor:
Mighty Optical Illusions
Spoiler: You're about to feel dumb.
If you answered the one on the right, congratulations, you're completely normal, and also completely wrong. Check out the same two lines side by side:
They're the exact same size. But why would your brain trick you into thinking that one line is bigger than the other? What have you done to deserve such a betrayal? Well, your brain is actually just looking out for you -- this happens for the same reason that you don't suddenly think that a person walking away from you has turned into a dwarf. It's all about how the brain deals with perspective.
The above photograph is an example of the Ponzo illusion, which occurs when an image's context tricks your brain into seeing size differences. Since the line on the left is supposed to be in the foreground and the line on the right is in the background, your brain insists that the line on the left must be shorter. Here's another one called the Muller-Lyer illusion -- in this case, the line on the left is actually a little bit shorter, and still looks longer.
Point all you want, kid, it'll always be shorter.
So where have you seen this type of illusion in real life? Just look at the sky at night. When the moon first pops up over the horizon, it looks enormous, but it gradually shrinks over the next few hours, until it's just a pathetic old thing hanging in the middle of the sky by midnight. That doesn't mean the moon has suddenly moved farther away from the Earth -- it only looks bigger on the horizon because objects in front of it, such as trees and buildings, create a perspective illusion.
If you see four at the same time, though, you probably need new glasses.
But here's the weirdest part: Because these illusions are based on context, how badly they fool you depends on what you're used to seeing ... meaning that city dwellers are more vulnerable to being tricked. On the other hand, if you grew up far from civilization, your brain won't contain as many images of large, man-made rectangular objects, so it won't be as easily fooled by these illusions. Then again, in this case, you may just as likely believe that the moon is some godlike being that lives in the sky, so maybe that's not much better.