Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu
Profile Image for Arthur Shapiro

Arthur Shapiro

Professor Department of Psychology

Arthur Shapiro specializes in the areas of visual perception and cognitive neuroscience. He did his undergraduate work in Mathematics (Computer Science) and Psychology (Cognitive Science) at U.C. San Diego. He received his PhD in Psychology from Columbia University and did post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. His research concentrates on color, motion, visual camouflage, and low-light-level vision. He is best known for creating a series of visual phenomena ("illusions") that have arisen from this research. The illusions elucidate the connections between perception, the brain, and the physical world, and have been regularly recognized in international contests associated with vision science conferences. Many of his illusions can be seen on his demo page, and at his blog.


PhD, Psychology, Columbia University
Post-Doc, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Chicago
BA, Mathematics and Psychology, University of California, San Diego

Download CV (PDF)

CAS - Psychology
Asbury - 224A
Thursdays 2:30-3:30 pm and by appointment.
Contact Info
(202) 885-1759

Send email to Arthur Shapiro

For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.
See Also
Shapiro Demonstration page
Illusion Sciences
Psychology Department

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Arthur Shapiro specializes in the areas of visual perception and neuroscience, and works on topics related to color perception, motion, visual camouflage, and low-light-level vision. He is best known for creating visual illusions that serve to elucidate the connections between perception, the brain, and the physical world.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Top 10 illusions of the year (international contest sponsored by the Neural Correlate Society)
  • Dramatically Different Percepts between Foveal and Peripheral Vision (2008), Knight, E. J., Shapiro, A. G., & Lu, Z. L. 
  • Perpetual Collisions (2008), Shapiro, A. G. & Knight, E. J.
  • Where Has All the Motion Gone? (2007), Third prize, Shapiro, A. G. & Knight, E. J.
  • Swimmers, Eels and Other Gradient-Gradient Illusions (2007), Knight, E. J. & Shapiro, A. G.
  • Weaves’ and the Hermann Grid (2007), Hamburger, K. & Shapiro, A. G.
  • Motion-Illusion Building Blocks (2005), First prize, Shapiro, A. G. & Charles, J. P.

Professional Presentations

Recent invited lectures "Color is slow; color contrast is fast."  Keynote lecture, International Colour Vision Society Conference, Braga, Portugal (July 2009).

  • “Separating color from color contrast: the implications for motion and brightness illusions.” Centre for Visual Science, York University, Toronto, Canada (February 2009).
  • "Why are we surprised by only some of the things we see? Spatial contrast, color contrast, and visual illusions." Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (May 2008).
  • "Contrast, Color, and Neuroscience." Lehigh University, Graduate Sponsored Colloquium, Biology department (March 2008).

Recent conference presentations

Professional Services

  • Judge, Best illusion of the year, Neural Correlate Society, 2006
  • Co-curator, Demonstration Night (exhibit of educational visual displays), Vision Sciences Society, 2007-2009

Selected Publications

  • Shapiro, A.G. (2008). "Spatial and temporal influences on the contrast gauge asynchrony." Vision Research, Vol. 48, No. 26, pp. 2642-2648.  
  • Shapiro, A. G. (2008). "Separating color from color contrast." Journal of Vision, Vol. 8, No. 1:8, pp. 1-18. doi:10.1167/8.1.8.
  • Shapiro, A.G. & Hamburger, K. (2007). "Grouping by contrast—figure-ground segregation is not necessarily fundamental." Perception, Vol. 36, No. 7, pp. 1104-1107.
  • Shapiro, A. G., Charles, J. P., & Shear-Heyman, M. (2005). "Visual illusions based on single-field  contrast asynchronies." Journal of Vision. Vol. 5, No. 10, pp. 764-782. 
  • Shapiro, A. G., D’Antona, A. D., Smith, J. B., Belano, L. A., & Charles, J. P. (2004). "Induced contrast asynchronies may be useful for luminance photometry." Visual Neuroscience, Vol. 21, pp. 243-247.
  • Shapiro, A. G., D’Antona, A. D., Charles, J. P., Belano, L. A., Smith, J. B., & Shear-Heyman, M. (2004). "Induced contrast asynchronies." Journal of Vision, Vol. 4, No. 6, pp. 459-468.
  • Shapiro, A. G., Hood, S. M., & Mollon, J. D. (2003). "Temporal sensitivity and contrast adaptation." Normal and Defective Colour Vision, Oxford University Press.
  • Shapiro, A. G., Beere, J. L., & Zaidi, Q. (2003). "Time course of S-cone system adaptation to simple and complex fields." Vision Research, Vol. 43, pp. 1135-1147.
  • Shapiro, A. G. (2002). "Cone-specific mediation of rod system sensitivity." Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 898-905.      

Grants and Sponsored Research

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH), AREA Award 2000-2003 
  • Medical Research Foundation of Oregon, 1995-1997
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH), Individual National Research Service Award, 1992-1995  

Media Appearances

Professor Shapiro’s visual illusions have been used for educational purposes in Japanese television shows, including:

  • Most Popular Lectures, Nippon Television Network
  • Dreamvision, Nippon Television Network
  • The Best House 123, Fuji Television Network
  • Amazing Stories, Fuji Television Network

Professor Shapiro’s blog has received positive commentary at many websites, including:

  • Freakonomics blog of The New York Times
  • The Daily Dish, the blog of Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic Monthly
  • The Situationist, the blog associated with The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School



  • “Disturbance,” Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University (2006)

Exhibits for Vision Sciences Society Demonstration Night

  • Knight, E. J., Shapiro, A. G., & Lu, Z.L. (2008).  "Illusions that illustrate fundamental differences  between foveal and peripheral vision." Naples, FL.
  • Shapiro, A. G., & Knight, E. J. (2008). "Perpetual collisions, long-range argyles, and other  illusions." Naples, FL.
  • Shapiro, A. G., Knight, E. J., & Johnson, T. (2007). "’Where has all the motion gone?’ and other visual effects." Sarasota, FL.
  • Hamburger, K. & Shapiro, A.G. (2007). "Weaves." Sarasota, FL.
  • Shapiro, A.G., Knight, E, J, Palmor, Y., & Mancusi, D. (2006). Swimmers, eels and other gradient-gradient illusions. Sarasota, FL.
  • Shapiro, A. G., & Charles, J. P. (2005). "Contrast asynchronies: 57 varieties." Sarasota, FL.
  • Shapiro, A. G. & D’Antona, A. D. (2004). "The Winking Effect." Sarasota, FL.

AU News and Achievements