What Is a Waterfall Illusion?


Quick Answer

The waterfall illusion is an optical illusion that deceives the brain into perceiving nonexistent motion after a period of staring at a moving visual stimulus, such as a waterfall. This is also known as a motion aftereffect.

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Full Answer

To experience the waterfall illusion directly, a person must stare at a running waterfall and then shift his gaze to a stationary object nearby, such as a wall or sidewalk. The stationary object then temporarily appears to be moving in the opposite direction of the waterfall. This is attributed to a phenomenon known as "neuron fatigue," in which the neurons detecting downward motion become overexcited and neurons detecting upward motion become more active.

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