Are perception and action affected differently by the Titchener circles illusion?

Francesco Pavani, Irina Boscagli, Francesco Benvenuti, Marco Rabuffetti, Alessandro Farnè

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In the present study, we investigated the effects Of the Titchener circles illusion in perception and action. In this illusion, two identical discs can be perceived as being different in size when one is surrounded by an annulus of smaller circles and the other is surrounded by an annulus of larger circles. This classic size-contrast illusion, known as Ebbinghaus or Titchener Circles Illusion, has a strong perceptual effect. By contrast, it has recently been demonstrated that when subjects are required to pick up one of the discs, their grip aperture during reaching is largely appropriate to the size of the target. This result has been considered as evidence of a clear dissociation between visual perception and visuomotor behaviour in the intact human brain. In this study, we suggest and investigate an alternative explanation for these results. We argue that, in a previous study, while perception was subjected to the simultaneous influence of the large and small circles displays, in the grasping task only the annulus of circles surrounding the target object was influential. We tested this hypothesis by requiring is subjects to perceptually estimate and grasp a disc centred in a single annulus of Titchener circles. The results showed that both the perceptual estimation and the hand shaping while grasping the disc were similarly influenced by the illusion. Moreover, the stronger the perceptual illusion, the greater the effect on the grip scaling. We discuss the results as evidence of an interaction between the functional pathways for perception and action in the intact human brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-101
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Humans
  • Motor control
  • Prehension
  • Visual illusions
  • Visual pathways

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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