Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 321–338 | Cite as

The Muller-Lyer illusion explained and its theoretical importance reconsidered

  • Bob Bermond
  • Jaap Van Heerden


The Müller-Lyer illusion is the natural consequence of the construction of the vertebrate eye, retina and visual processing system. Due to imperfections in the vertebrate eye and retina and due to the subsequent processing in the system by ever increasing receptive fields, the visual information becomes less and less precise with respect to exact location and size. The consequence of this is that eventually the brain has to calculate ‘a weighted mean value’ of the information, which is spread out over a population of neurons. In the case of the Müller-Lyer illusion this inevitably leads to extension of one and reduction of the other line. The arguments presented explain several published experimental results concerning the Müller-Lyer illusion and shed new light upon the philosophical neutrality of observation sentences.

Key words

Müller-Lyer illusion visual processing observation sentences theory-ladenness 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bob Bermond
    • 1
  • Jaap Van Heerden
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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