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Arthur Shapiro Professor Department of Psychology

Additional Positions at AU
Professor, Computer Science
See Also
Illusion Sciences
Psychology Department
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


Spring 2023

  • PSYC-321 Sensation and Perception

  • PSYC-497 Topics in Psychology: Cyberpsychology

Fall 2023

  • CSC-121 Creative Coding

  • CSC-121 Creative Coding

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • Society for Neuroscience

  • Psychonomic Society

  • Vision Sciences Society

  • Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience

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

  • Books

  • Shapiro, A.G. & Todorović, D. (Eds.). (2016, in production). Oxford Compendium of Visual Illusions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Journal Articles

  • Flynn, O. J.  & Shapiro, A.G. (Submitted). The Perpetual Diamond Phenomenon: Contrast Reversals and Motion Analysis.

  • Dixon, E. L. & Shapiro, A.G. (Accepted pending minor revisions). Spatial Frequency, Color Constancy and the Dress. Journal of Vision.

  • Shapiro, A.G. (2016, in press). Contrast Contrast Asynchrony. In A.G. Shapiro & D. Todorović (Eds.), Oxford Compendium of Visual Illusions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Shapiro, A.G. & Kistler, W. (2016, in press). Color Wagon Wheel. In A.G. Shapiro & D. Todorović (Eds.), Oxford Compendium of Visual Illusions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Shapiro, A.G. (2015). Star Wars Scroll Illusion. i-Perception, 6(5), 1-8. doi: 10.1177/2041669515604060

  • Shapiro, A.G., Caplovitz, G.P. & Dixon, E.L. (2014). Feature- and Face-Exchange illusions: new insights and applications for the study of the binding problem. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8(804). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00804

  • Rose-Henig, A. & Shapiro, A.G. (2014). Contrast-Contrast Asynchronies. Journal of the Optical Society of America, A,  31(4): A232-A238.

  • Dixon, E.L. & Shapiro, A.G. (2014). The paradoxical effect of spatially homogenous transparent fields on simultaneous contrast illusions. Journal of the Optical Society of America, A, 31(4): A307-A313.

  • Dixon, E.L., Shapiro, A.G., & Lu, Z.L. (2014). Scale-invariance in brightness illusions implicates object-level visual processing. Scientific Reports, 4, Article Number 3900.  doi:10.1038/srep03900

  • Flynn, O. & Shapiro A.G. (2014). Adelson’s Argyle Illusion and Cornsweet Edges. Psihologija, 47, 353-588.

  • Flynn, O. & Shapiro A.G. (2013). The separation of monocular and binocular contrast. Vision Research, 93, 19-28.

  • Hamburger, K., Dixon E. L., & Shapiro, A.G. (2013). From Hermann’s grid to Spillmann’s weaves. In A. Geremek, M.W. Greenlee, & S. Magnussen (Eds.), Perception Beyond Gestalt: Progress in Vision Research (pp.118-127). NY: Psychology Press.

  • Shapiro, A.G. & Lu, Z.L. (2011). Relative Brightness in Natural Images can be Accounted for by Removing Blurry Content. Psychological Science, 22(11), 1452-1459.

  • Caplovitz, G., Shapiro, A.G., & Stroud, S. (2011). The maintenance and disambiguation of object representations depend upon feature contrast within and between objects. Journal of Vision, 11(14), 1-14. doi: 10.1167/11.14.1.

  • Shapiro, A.G., Knight, E.J., & Lu, Z.L. (2011). A First- and Second-Order Motion Energy Analysis of Peripheral Motion Illusions Leads to Further Evidence of Feature Blur in Peripheral Vision. PLoS ONE, 6(4), e18719. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018719

  • Shapiro, A.G. & Hamburger, K. (2011). What makes an illusion an illusion? An examination of contrast information in grouping and grid phenomena. In E. Charles (Ed.), Psychological Realism: A New Look at an Old Theory (pp. 81-105). Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

  • Shapiro, A.G., Lu, Z.L., Huang, C.B., Knight, E. J., & Ennis, R. (2010). Transitions between central and peripheral vision create spatial/temporal distortions: a hypothesis concerning the perceived break of the curveball. PLoS ONE, 5(10): e13296. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013296

  • Shapiro, A.G. & Leaver, A.M. (2010). Edges can eliminate the appearance of the contrast            asynchrony. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 30(5), 534-544.

  • Hamburger, K. & Shapiro, A.G. (2009). Spillmann's weaves are more resilient than      Hermann's grid. Vision Research, 49(16), 2121-30.

  • Shapiro, A.G. & Knight, E. J. (2008). Spatial and temporal influences on the contrast gauge asynchrony. Vision Research, 48(26), 2642-2648.  

  • Shapiro, A.G. (2008). Separating color from color contrast. Journal of Vision, 8(1):8, 1-18, doi:10.1167/8.1.8



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

Illusions, Five-part series that Shapiro hosted and presented

Brain Games, National Geographic. Featured 7 of my illusions;  Shapiro appeared in Motion Commotion episode  

News articles, interviews, and TV appearances, including NBC News (D.C. local stations), New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and CBC’s Quirks and Quarks and As It Happens

My illusions are frequently featured on international television shows, including Stephen Fry’s QI and several Japanese television program

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.