A Thickness Illusion: Horizontal Is Perceived as Thicker than Vertical

Vision (Basel). 2019 Jan 4;3(1):1. doi: 10.3390/vision3010001.


We report two psychophysical experiments that investigate a visual illusion that is considered common knowledge among type designers, but has never been studied scientifically. Specifically, the thickness of a horizontal line is overestimated in relation to that of a vertical line. Experiment 1 confirmed the existence of the illusion. In Experiment 2, we replicated the effect and showed that the illusion is closely related to the vertical-horizontal illusion, in which the length of a vertical line is overestimated in comparison to a horizontal one. Both the overestimation of thickness and length is larger when the stimulus is surrounded by a horizontally elongated frame, as opposed to a vertically elongated frame. We discuss potential explanations for the thickness illusion and its relation to the vertical-horizontal illusion.

Keywords: illusion; orientation; perception; vision.