Trick Your Brain This Halloween With UW Scientist, Jason Webster

by | Oct 9, 2015

Tricks, Treats & Science Feats returns to Pacific Science Center with plenty of Halloween activities such as giant pumpkin carving, cockroach handling, themed Planetarium shows as well as the science behind illusions. With the help of University of Washington (UW) Scientist, Jason Webster, we’ll trick your brain into seeing optical illusions, then explore the science behind how your vision and brain work together to understand the world.

Webster is a graduate student at the UW Department of Psychology and he studies the effects of blindness and sight recovery on the brain. In his limited spare time, he studies illusions and how our brains are tricked into seeing objects and images incorrectly and why that happens.

“Illusions allow scientists to uncover the different ways our brains function,” said Webster. “It’s telling us about how the visual system works and the many steps that your brain goes through to process an image. Illusions can show us the way your brain tried to make sense of an object by the way that you perceive the image or object to be versus reality.”

There are many different ways an illusion can confuse your brain. A few of the activities that Webster has created for Tricks, Treats & Science Feats will demonstrate the ways our vision and brain naturally takes to comprehend an object or image.

In “Positive After Images” you’ll experience an image ‘freeze’  onto your retina or see a “ghost” of someone’s face as your eyes quickly adjust from dark lighting to bright lighting.

“This is because your eyes have two structures to help you see: rods and cones,” says Webster. “Rods are for seeing in dark light, or nighttime vision and they cannot process color. Cones are for seeing in bright light, or daytime and can see color very well. Because you’re eyes are switching from cones to rods quickly by turning off the lights, you will see a copy of the image you were just looking at.”

Experience more illusion activities and understand more about how your sight and brain understand the world around you at Tricks, Treats & Science Feats on October 30 and 31, included with general admission to Pacific Science Center.

Girl with flowers in her hair using a microscope