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This is likely related to other illusions of relative size, such as the Ebbinghaus (A) and Delboeuf (B) illusions. These illusions show that perception is not a 1:1 representation of retinal input. Instead it is a mental (re-)construction. As reviewed by Mrucek et al: an object's size is not inherently represented in the size of its projected ...


I can't tell you the exact underlying mechanism unfortunately. I can analyze the illusion so as to approximate an answer. You can see that the effect is virtually absent when the white squares on the two rows are nearly similarly sized (rook - pawn). The effect is biggest when the white surfaces are most unequal (king - pawn). Additionally, to me, the ...

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