We all know of course that horizontal stripes make you look fat and that to appear thinner you should wear vertical stripes. Well, like so much we think we know, it appears we were wrong yet once again. According to an article in Cosmos magazine (via SciTech Daily)
While investigating variation in the architectural design of columns in the temples of Paestum, Italy, Peter Thompson, a psychologist from the University of York, came across an illusion whereby the direction of the stripes determines the overall illusion of height and width.
“It is supposed to make the columns look straighter than they actually are. You might expect these columns to be cylindrical but they rarely are,” he said.
After looking into it further, Thompson discovered that this so-called ‘Opel-Kundt’ illusion was described by a German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz in the mid-19th century. He found that if two identical squares are drawn side-by-side, one with horizontal stripes, the other with vertical stripes, then the square with the horizontal stripes looked taller and narrower than the other with vertical stripes.
“I found that this relates to clothing too,” said Thompson. “In HelmHoltz’s Handbook of Physiological Optics he noted that ladies’ frocks with cross stripes on them make the figure look taller, so this idea has been around for a while.”
To test whether the illusion held true today, Thompson showed drawings of two women, side by side, to 20 individuals. One woman wore a dress with horizontal stripes and the other in a dress with vertical stripes.
After around 200 repetitions over which the body size of either woman was varied, he concluded that the horizontal stripes made the figure look taller and narrower.