This optical illusion will completely trick your brain

As smart as us human beings like to believe we are, we always seem to get fooled by the simplest of things. A difficult math problem, for instance, can send us reeling in confusion, and a particularly tricky riddle can get on our nerves for days.

But nothing messes with our melons more than a good optical illusion.

This week, a picture posted to Imgur had everyone scratching their heads in collective bemusement, as it appeared to show side-by-side images of the same street photographed from separate angles. However, the two pictures are actually exactly the same. Take a look and see if you're affected by the illusion:

optical illusion Credit: Imgur

If you look at the placement of the lamp on the wall, the van in the background, and the car in the foreground, it's pretty clear to see that the pictures are the same. However, if you look at just the bottom half of the pictures, you'll see that the roads depicted appear to point away from one another.

Still think this is some sort of trick?

Here are the two images again, split into separate layers in Photoshop:

alt Credit: Imgur

And here they are once more - this time with one placed on top of the other (notice the overlapping A and B in the bottom left):

optical illusion Credit: Imgur

So how is this illusion achieved?

One Redditor theorized that it had something to do with our brain's determination to see the two pictures as one whole image, and therefore shifts our perception slightly to turn it into one forked road.

"It's because the 2 streets come together at the bottom of the pictures," they wrote. "Your brain tries to perceive this as one image with a fork in the road and therefore the street in the picture on the left must be at a different angle than the picture on the right."

This isn't the first time that this sort of trickery has been noticed. It's actually a known phenomenon dubbed the "Leaning Tower Illusion", and was named after the work of French illusionist, Daniel Picon. In one of his artworks, Picon placed two identical images of the leaning tower of Piza side by side, creating the same effect as you see with the one in the roads.

In a study about this effect, researchers found that it is all down to our hyper-advanced (but sort of dumb) brains trying to correct the thing in front of us.

"Our knowledge of perspective however compensates for this and leads us to perceive the inclinations of the two towers veridically," they said.

"It follows that if the corresponding outlines of a pair of physically identical, receding objects are parallel in the two-dimensional projection, the objects cannot be physically parallel but, instead, must be diverging as they recede from view."

Personally, I've found that you can sort of correct your brain with the street pictures if you just look at the bottom half of the images, and focus mainly on the crack that runs through the paving. Once you can convince yourself that those two lines are parallel, it gets slightly easier to process them as a duplicate of one image, rather than two separate photographs.

The effect actually works with any pair of identical pictures of receding objects - so you could try it for yourself if you have a suitable image.