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Why Does Rubin's Vase Differ Radically From Optical Illusions? Framing Effects Contra Cognitive Illusions

Version 2 2024-01-25, 12:11
Version 1 2023-06-18, 11:43
journal contribution
revised on 2024-01-25, 12:10 and posted on 2024-01-25, 12:11 authored by Elias L. Khalil

 Many researchers use the term “context” loosely to denote diverse kinds of reference points. The issue is not about terminology but rather about the common conflation of one kind of reference points, such as rules of perception, which is responsible for optical illusions, with another kind, known as “context” or “frame,” as exemplified in Rubin's vase. Many researchers regard Rubin's vase as a special kind of optical illusions. This paper rather argues that the two phenomena are radically different. Optical illusions are occasional mistakes that people quickly recognize and eagerly correct, while the different figures of Rubin's vase are not mistakes but, rather, the outcomes of different perspectives that do not need correction. The competing figures in Rubin's vase can, at best, in light of more information, be more warranted or unwarranted. This paper discusses at length one ramification of the proposed distinction. The framing effects, such as loss/gain frame, are the products of contexts and, hence, resemble greatly the figures in Rubin's vase. In contrast, cognitive illusions generated occasionally by the rules of thumb (heuristics) are mistakes and, hence, resemble optical illusions. The proposed distinction carries other ramifications regarding, e.g., happiness studies, moral judgments, and the new philosophy of science. 

Other Information

Published in: Frontiers in Psychology
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Open Access funding provided by the Qatar National Library.



  • English



Publication Year

  • 2021

License statement

This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Institution affiliated with

  • Doha Institute for Graduate Studies
  • School Of Economics Administration and Public Policy - DI