Black Dot Illusion: Can You Spot All Dots At Once?

Here’s your ultimate guide to understanding the Hermann Grid.

By Fred S.
Black Dot Illusion: Can You Spot All Dots At Once?

What Is The Black Dot Optical Illusion?

Every year, a new social media argument is initiated. We have a whole list of items that have originated an online debate and ended up being a domestic issue in our real lives. Sometimes, it is a conflict regarding a dress that appears different to different people. Then came a meme with a sneaker that had everyone fighting over its original color. Later on, a blurry dark photo of a baby peeking out of a rusty windowpane was set afloat online to prove if you are able to communicate with or see paranormal beings, a picture that scared hundreds of people because the visibility of the baby meant you have been seeing ghosts your entire life!

In 2016, a new trend took over the internet such that it caused many to avert their eyes away from their screens. This latest picture had people doubting their vision, senses, and perception; it made them question if their eyes had actually ever seen something real or if everything was just an illusion or a fantasy concocted by none other than our brains. As you will later find out, the biggest intellects of our times have not yet reached a conclusion concerning this effect.

The black dot optical illusion was shared multiple times for weeks on the length that dodged our vision, convincing us first about the presence of white or grey dots amidst the neatly arranged black boxes that kept appearing and disappearing with a few blinks. It put a great number of people into having the worst vertigo and nausea of their lives. We ourselves felt nauseous and dizzy after feasting our eyes upon the twinkling dots that showed themselves as suddenly as they faded probably faster than our rate of blinking.

This illusion was developed to elaborate on the differences that existed between our neurons. It basically illustrates two phenomena that take place once our eyes receive a stimulus such as the picture of black boxes separated by uniform white spaces:

  1. Neurons do not operate on the same frequency and intensity. Few neurons are always more potent than others even when they all share the same trigger.
  2. Neurons located in the periphery of our brain have less inhibitory mechanisms operational against them than those located in the centrer

Such is the enigma of this optical illusion that it had people on almost every social media networking site questioning their entire existence. The fading in and fading out of the twelve immaculately placed dots and viewers’ inability to view them all at once as a static pattern did leave a dent in their brains. Almost everyone tried to decode the meaning or the reason behind this picture, but little did they know that this occurrence had been proven in the late 1800s by a scientist whose grid had sent jitters throughout the world back in his day.

How Was The Black Dot Optical Illusion Discovered?

For people like us, reading anything even remotely related to something as dreary as physics means instant slumber. However, scientist Hermann found out that his physics’ text produced a twinkling effect. To date, it is not clear if this effect is a mere illusion or a hallucination. It is generally agreed to be an illusion as greys are more apparent the more we focus on the points of intersection of white and black.

Scientist Hermann Von Helmholtz

This effect had later been elaborated and changed by many other scientists and philosophers. Despite extensive research and prolonged internet fame, the effect remains a mystery to most of the scientific community that is undertaking research to learn more about how the Hermann grid actually works!

Why Can’t We See All The Black Dots At Once?

Sadly for humans, we suck at looking sideways. Animals like cats and cheetahs have been bestowed with all-encompassing eyesight that is fitting for their lifestyle as they need to survive in an environment that is harsher than ours. These mammals may have a brain that is smaller and less developed than ours but their vision makes up for this difference. They are able to detect objects in their periphery as good as they can visualize an object that is placed in the precise center of their vision. Humans lack this trait. We are only able to focus clearly on the target that is best perceived by the center of our vision. Anything other than that is blurred out or marginalized by our eyes in order to enhance the sharpness of the object in the middle.

Another reason why none of the 12 dots can be visualized at once is because of the contrasting colours that are used to make up the grid. Black and white are pretty good opposites. This tricks the very tiny nerve endings in our eye tissue to focus more on the areas where there is a more blaring contrast than the rest of the points.

Human brain and eyes are designed to be efficient and effective. In order to achieve these traits, the amount of stimulus applied to these two organs is decreased to maximise utility in circumstances of need. The same happens when you focus on a single object in sight. The brain starts to blur out the rest of the surrounding items as the brain discards them for not garnering enough of your attention.

Is It Possible To See All The Black Dots At Once?

If you have a laptop nearby, you can actually get to see all the black dots at once. As mentioned earlier, the lateral inhibition phenomenon or the alacrity of the nerve endings in the eye to focus more on the areas with greater contrast can be conveniently inhibited by pushing forward the laptop screen with the grid displayed. This will enhance the contrast of the screen and make it easier for you to look at all 12 dots in a single go.

Using your phone, bringing the screen closer to your eyes will also make the dots appear a bit more static for you to appreciate them without any scintillating effect or any of the other variations that have been undertaken to complicate Hermann’s grid.

The latest studies suggest that any alteration was undertaken to the background and/or its overlying grid will eliminate the effect to some degree if not completely. If the lines and the grid are drawn in an undulating pattern, the illusion will subside to some extent. Increasing the size of the images present at the intersection can somewhat eliminate the phenomenon too.

If you want to make the dots disappear completely instead of making them appear all at once, move the image away from you such that its bottom happens to be the border closest to your field of vision. Again, a pattern will exist and the dots will appear darker and more stationary.

What Is The Science Behind The Black Dot Optical Illusion?

1. Scintillation effect

Scientists and philosophers later found out that the speed and the rhythm with which these dots appear and disappear can be altered by blurring the Hermann grid. This blurring gives birth to the extremely rapid appearance and disappearance of the small grey blocks at the points of intersection of black and white.

2. Lateral inhibition

The retina of the human eye tends to focus more on the contrasts and ignores the peripheral content. This increases the clarity of the item being focused on and blurs everything else in the lateral field of vision. If you choose to focus on the dots in the right half of the grid, the remaining left half and the center will look devoid of any dots and vice versa.

Related Article: Right Eye Twitching: What Does It Mean For Men And Female?
Right Eye Twitching: What Does It Mean For Men And Female?

The meaning is different for men and women, find out now!



The human brain may be the pinnacle of nervous development, but it isn’t always the smartest as proven by the Hermann grid that brings to light our inability to focus in all directions at once. It isn’t possible. Our mind will ultimately offload itself and enhance attention span solely by targeting one stimulus at a time.

There is nothing wrong with this feature. We aren’t one of those animal species that need all-embracing eyesight to survive. However, the next time you come across the Hermann grid over the internet, you need not fall into an abyss of despair as you are not the only one to be duped by this optical illusion. Almost everyone has their head spinning with the ever-moving grey dots in the grid. Whether they actually exist or our mind just hallucinates is a question that is yet to be answered. Till then, we continue to trigger our nausea by trying to focus on all of those dots at once in vain!