11 Optical Illusions That Have Baffled Us in 2021

Not everything is what it seems, and this year there have been many photographs and videos shared to social media that proves this is the case.

The phenomenon is known as an optical illusion, an image that fools the eye into seeing something different to what has actually been captured.

Here are some of the best inadvertent visual trickeries that have left the internet scratching its collective heads in 2021. Can you work them out?

1) Cat With Human Arm Protruding From Its Chest

In this snap, posted to Reddit by user Francis__99, it appears as though the fluffy cat has a woman's arm protruding out of its chest, but what is really happening?

Well, the image poster assured Newsweek that it is in fact due to the cats thick fur, revealing: "My sister's hand goes under my cat's right armpit, and the fur of his belly touches the one from the arm, leaving the hand of my sister all alone in his chest."

2) Girl Sinking Into Side Walk

Optical illusion of girl in pavement
An optical illusion of a young girl who appears to have been engulfed by a paved walkway that went viral on Reddit. Reddit by user MK24ever

An image of a little girl seemingly sinking into the sidewalk had many umming and ahing on Reddit when it was shared user MK24EVER back in May.

Turns out she is standing next to a wall. Look again, and you will see it.

3) Invisible Woman on Mountain

A recent photograph of a ski slope was shared to Reddit by Mystical_Cat, but can you make out the snowboarding woman?

Hint: Her clothing blends with the background perfectly.

4) Oil Painting of Dog

A photograph of a dog has gone viral on Reddit because many believe it looks just like an oil painting. Reddit/PhatWalda

Redditor PhatWalda shared a photo on October 15 with the caption "I snapped a photo of my dog through a window screen that looks like an old painting."

And it definitely does! Speaking to Newsweek, the pet owner explained: "It's funny how a simple iPhone camera, some autumn light and a screened window can capture the beauty of animals and life."

5) Cat or Chair?

One Redditer took a photograph of their cat which made him look like he was a two-dimensional embroidery. Spacexcake/Reddit

Is the cat in the photograph real, or an embroidery? Although it is hard to tell, the text overlaying the image reads: "Why does Rodney look embroidered onto the chair?"

Nevertheless people were still bamboozled by Reddit user Spacexcake's image, with one person musing: "Guy with a cat pillow wants internet to think he has a cat while he eats pizza alone."

6) IKEA or Ocean View?

A stunning vista of a deep blue ocean on the horizon was not that it seemed in one TikTok video.

In the clip, which was shared by L.A.-based Julie Dean, it is revealed that in fact the expanse of blue is a branch of a famed Swedish furniture store.

"That is not the ocean guys. That's IKEA. I'm scared," she exclaims.

7) Chameleon Hat


Reply to @koko.t_ Do you believe it now!? Brought the hat to my parents house to test it out with witnesses! #metamerism #colortheory #physics #stemtok

♬ original sound - Art + Design

Is the hat green or is it brown?

This is a question that consumed internet users after one viral TikTok video, shared by an account called Oteliacarmen, showed a hat changing color under different lamps. What's your theory?

8) Woman Jumping Over Building

This video showing a woman supposedly jumping over a building left many trying to work out how she pulled it off.

In the clip, the TikTok user, who calls herself Ying, showed herself walking in the foreground, with her garden shelter in the background.

The woman then turns her back to the camera and jumps over the wooden structure, landing behind it.

After this she puts her hands in her pockets and walks away—she resembles a giant while her backyard appears to be the size of a dollhouse, which many believe it to be.

9) Mythical Tree Creature Cat

One feline appeared to have morphed into a "mythical tree creature" in a snap shared to Reddit by Deathakissaway earlier this month.

The reflection of the tree in the window has caused the animal to appear to a spiky tree-shaped head, and one person even likened it to the Grinch.

10) Dress That Cuts Body in Half

Optical illusions also made their way into fashion this year, with one dress causing quite the stir online.

In a TikTok video a creator called Xojem_ appeared to halve her waist by tying up a cleverly designed dress, which has a pattern created to have an impressive slimming effect. Take a look!

11) Cat Inside Potato Masher

This TikTok video is sure to mash up your brain up in confusion, because it shows a baby cat caught in a potato masher... or does it?

Although viewers feared the kitten had been stabbed, it soon became apparent the kitten was merely wrapped around the kitchen utensil. Phew!

Optical illusion
A stock image of a man touching a wall painted to look like the sky. There been many optical illusions that have baffled the internet in 2021 iStock

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts