Optical Illusions Can Help Your Golf, Tennis, and Sports Performance

Altering perception can make it easier to succeed in sports

Dr. Daniel Laby
3 min readDec 22, 2022


An optical illusion of a triangle whose sides connect in impossible attachments
Photo by Sachin Khadka on Unsplash

Optical illusions refer to visuals that we perceive and interpret differently than what is actually really present. They are used to challenge how our brains process visual information and can profoundly affect how we experience the world. In terms of sports performance, optical illusions can play a critical role in helping athletes improve their skills.

Optical illusions can be used to help athletes build the ability to identify visual cues in the environment which can help them respond quickly and more accurately. Several published research studies have described the perception differences noted by successful athletes as compared to unsuccessful athletes. In a 2005 study, researchers noted that successful softball batters perceived the oncoming ball as larger than unsuccessful batters. Similarly in a 2010 study researchers noted that tennis players who were successful perceived the balls to be moving more slowly, and the net to be placed lower, than less successful players.

These observations highlight the relationship between perception and athletic performance. In a 2011 study, researchers used optical illusions to influence the perceived size of a golf hole in a series of subjects.

The Ebbinghaus illusion and Sports Performance

An optical illusion where a central circle is surrounded by other circles with larger surrounding circles on the left and small surrounding circles on the right. Although the surrounding circles appear to make the central circles two different sizes, they are in fact identical
Public domain via Wikimedia commons

The Ebbinghaus illusion, also known as “Titchener circles”, is an optical illusion that affects the perception of relative sizes. As can be appreciated in the above example image, the illusion requires two central circles, each surrounded by a series of other circles, either larger or smaller than the central circle. Due to the relationship between the central circle and the surrounding circles, the central circle may appear smaller if surrounded by larger circles or appear larger if surrounded by smaller circles. Researchers have noted that both the…



Dr. Daniel Laby

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