Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Martin Stevens

Deception and the eye of the beholder

Deception is rife in nature, from spiders that mimic ants for protection through to carnivorous plants that lure insects with attractive smells. As highly visual animals ourselves it’s only natural that we humans often judge the appearance of other species through our own senses.

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Enslaved ants and cuckoo bees

Many of us know that some birds trick other host parents from a different species into rearing their young. Best known is the common cuckoo in the UK and much of mainland Europe, However, this type of deception is not only the forte of birds – many insects ‘brood parasites’ too, especially ants, wasps, and bees.

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Illusions for survival and reproduction

Much of what we think we see is not real – it’s an illusion. A favourite pastime for many visual psychologists and artists is to baffle and confuse our perception by making things appear that are not really there, or manipulating the way that we might see patterns or colours. The origin of many illusions lies in the fact that the brain often receives incomplete or conflicting information.

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