Posted by: Tina McInerney | November 6, 2009

Dyslexia is an optical illusion

The optical illusion titled The Spinning Dancer  is the best example I know of that demonstrates the feeling of confusion that I experience while trying to read.


Could this simple revelation be a key to understanding and a discovery to The Truth About Reading and the alternative learner?  For me it is!

To identify the direction of the dancer, we use our left brain and right brain in conjunction to decide if she is spinning clockwise or if she is spinning contraclockwise.   Like magic, the dancer appears to go either way and without any indication or warning she flips and starts to change her direction.

For me, the letters “b” & “d” and the numbers “6” & “9” are the “standouts”.  Letters and numbers appear to go either way and without any indication or warning flip and appear to change direction. I also tend to read words that are not there and omit ones that are and mix up the order of the letters in the words.  Is it any wonder that I thought I was going out of my mind?

One explanation is that a person composes mental sentences one word at a time at the same speed as speech, which is about 150 words a minute. In contrast, picture thinking is estimated to be, overall, 400 to 2000 times faster than verbal thinking.Reading for me is like an optical illusion.

Like magic, the letters and numbers appear to go either way.  Like a tug of war or battle of wits, logic and knowledge are constantly at odds with each other,

If I look at an optical illusion for too long,  “The Spinning Dancer” being a perfect example,  I feel dizzy.   I become physically drained and frustrated because I am using more brain power from both the left and right side of my brain.

This is exactly what happens when I am trying to read and write.  If I concentrate hard, I can make the dancer stop and spin the other way by simply blinking my left and right eye.

It has to do with the colors. There is a certain point in your eyes that does not actually see anything so your brain makes up for it using our imagination The average person uses the logic-oriented left side of the brain to learn to read if they have trouble with a word they use method called “decoding”.


To figure the word out Decoding is like solving a puzzle.    We decode by using clues that we already recognize to figure out a word we can not read.    By amassing information, such as,   who are we reading about,  what is the character doing and where they are,  we can fill in the blanks using either our right brain for imagination or our left brain for logic.

Although this may not be the reason that all people find reading difficult, for me,  “The Spinning Dancer”  demonstrates  the feeling of having our mind playing tricks when trying to read or transport an image from the eyes to our brain.

The words illusion, tricks, magic, appears, puzzle, decoding, solving and imagination all describe the way I learned to read.  Understanding this alone will offer assistance to help understand the truth about reading

I read or decode each single word as a whole picture like a symbol or an icon amongst a flash flood of other images from the right side of my brain.

I imagine letters and number in full colour, three dimensional and can manipulate them in my mind like a 360* panoramic view as if on a non-fixed axis of rotation.  I have a photographic memory for images and text written on paper. When I did learn that I could read I needed to understand the “how”, so that I could help others. Quite simply, I was seeing each word as a whole.

But I cannot read the way most schools educate and I lack phonetic awareness, one of the major keys to learning for the majority of the population

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Researchers from all over the globe have various ideas and hope to uncover the truth about reading but, will there ever be one definitive answer. Each person has their own set of factors and life circumstances and DNA.

One expert from Yale has discovered that the language we speak plays a part in our ability to read because of the differences in the sounds and phonons.   And that understanding to reading is not something that we are born with describing learning to read as a game with English being the most illogical of all.

So if we take what we do understand, realize that we are all different and that different is not wrong, bad or a disability we can accept the fact that we can move forward.  By moving on and working with what we know about a person who exhibits a different slant or way of learning we can better understand the many different views and interpretations any picture or text can have on any scale of learning

.Because reading for me is an illusion, just like a magic trick, I can decode, solve and imagine with the right side of my brain. The Spinning Dancer will finally allow me to show the world, the confusion that  I experience whenever I have tried to read.

My interpretations, because I have never known any other way of reading, are not wrong, they are simply different.



  1. You might be interested in these references, which link such superpositioning within optical illusions to the idea of a “quantum consciousness.

    The scientist Manousakis believes that the ability to flip an ambiguous image is akin to quantum superposition, in which both possible interpretations co-exist simultaneously in a state that can be expressed as a quantum wave function. Each time the image is viewed, the wave function collapses and one or the other interpretations is perceived”.

    Woolf and Hammeroff (2001) suggested that in the case of illusionary Kanizsa figures, the missing information is derived from the memory through quantum processing. In the absence of a complete figure , multiple entangled patterns are activated resulting in quantum superpositioning of all possible patterns. On reaching thresholds for self collapse, one particular pattern – usually the most typical shape is arrived at.

    It is also interesting that recognition speed for impossible figures, a task that depends on the holistic integration of long-range spatial information across a scene, is observed to be enhanced in dyslexia without compromising speed . One study found that people with dyslexia identified simplified Escher-like pictures as impossible or possible in an average of 2.26 seconds; typical viewers tend to take a third longer.

    Optical illusions are being used to explore other neurological conditions, particularly schizophrenia (e.g see link below), and they can potentially be used to explore the neurology of other conditions such as dyslexia.

  2. I have dyslexia and when you wrote the letters in the wrong place it really messed me up on my method for reading it gave me a really bad headache. But I really liked this reading it is almost the exact way for me when I read and wright as it is for you

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