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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/540

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

and with apparent angular velocities increasing toward the center of vision. Furthermore, I have arranged two such disks so that they could be simultaneously in the field of view while rotating in opposite directions. When the gaze was directed first at a point between them and then at fixed objects, there appeared to be two portions of the field of view rotating, and animated with rotations in opposed senses. Clearly, the eye can not slip round in opposite directions at the same time. In all these illusions, moreover, it is found that this illusory complementary motion only occurs over limited parts of the field of view—namely, those which correspond to the portions of the retina which previously received the moving images. Thus, if a waterfall be looked at—as in Addams's observation—the upward illusory after-motion is confined to a vertical streak across the field of vision. This fact alone is sufficient to negative the theory of muscular slip.

The final test to which I have appealed is, if possible, even more conclusive. It is probably a familiar observation that the end of the last carriage of a retreating railway-train appears to shrink down smaller and smaller as it subtends a decreasing angular magnitude in the field of view. After looking at this motion for a sufficient number of seconds to fatigue the eye, stationary objects appear to be expanding. To produce this illusion more effectually, I take a disk like that shown in Fig. 4 (the figure is quarter actual size), marked out in spirals of white and black. If this is slowly rotated—say at about one revolution in two seconds—the whole pattern appears either to be running into, or running out of, the center of the disk: there is a motion of convergence or divergence, according to the sense of the rotation. Let the disk be turned so as to cause an apparent convergence from all sides to the center, and let the eye steadily watch the center for about a minute, or until the fatigue becomes almost unendurable. Then look at any fixed object—the pattern of the wall-paper, or the dial of a clock—the object so regarded will for some two, or three, or more seconds, appear to be expanding from the center outward. The effect is still more startling if the object thus viewed be the face of a familiar friend. It is quite evident that the eyeball can not slip in all directions at once.

I have, therefore, somewhat reluctantly been led to propound an explanation for these illusions, embodying the theory of them in an empirical law based upon the physical fact of retinal fatigue, and on the psychological fact of association of contrasts. It is as follows: The retina ceases to perceive as a motion a steady succession of images that pass over a particular region for a sufficient time to induce fatigue; and, on a portion of the retina so affected, the image of a body not in motion appears by contrast to be moving in a complementary direction. This law is precisely similar to that of the complementary subjective colors seen after fatiguing the retina by the image of a colored body. Similar laws of physico-psychological after-effects are