In the optical illusion below the “A” square and the “B” square are the same color grey. Do you believe me? What makes you doubt the veracity of my claim? Do you find the illusion interesting? Are you curious to know more? I’ll give you the proof of the argument at the end of this article.

Anthropologists argue human beings are the only living species that
express the concept of “interesting.”
There is no other entity or animal in the world that interacts with an
object or an idea on the level of “interesting.”
Now “curious” is a different beast altogether — some believe
“interesting” and “curious” are synonymous when they are not.

Animals have a natural curiosity, as do we, that allows them to
evolutionarily evolve by exploring new territories and by investigating
threats against their own security.
It is curiosity, not knowing — I argue — that is embedded in the core
idea of Natural Selection because how one deals with the dangers found
in an exploration or expedition can mean faster progression or
immediate death.
How do you think we discovered the concept of finding something
“interesting” from “curious?”

Can “interesting” survive without “curious?”
Does “interesting” protect us or merely entertain us?
Today, the New York Times reports an explosion of human advancement over the last 40,000 years under the “force of natural selection:”

The brisk rate of human selection occurred for two reasons,
Dr. Moyzis’ team says. One was that the population started to grow,
first in Africa and then in the rest of the world after the first
modern humans left Africa. The larger size of the population meant that
there were more mutations for natural selection to work on. The second
reason for the accelerated evolution was that the expanding human
populations in Africa and Eurasia were encountering climates and
diseases to which they had to adapt genetically.

The extra mutations in
their growing populations allowed them to do so.
Dr. Moyzis said it was widely assumed that once people developed
culture, they protected themselves from the environment and from the
forces of natural selection. But people also had to adapt to the
environments that their culture created, and the new analysis shows
that evolution continued even faster than before.

Is “interesting” the real cause for this evolutionary explosion or is there a higher reason?
As promised, here is the full explanation for the grey squares illusion.


  1. I find it interesting that you used a Wiki reference in this instance.
    I would agree that interesting is different to curious. I would suggest that it goes beyond curious in that it starts another process above and beyond curiosity. Interesting is where I start cross comparing the “object of my curiosity” with my own personal data bank of knowledge and seeing where it linked in and if it was similar to other patterns. Curiosity is what brings me there in the first place – interesting is what takes me beyond.

  2. Hi Nicola!
    Our ban is against Wikipedia, not all Wikis! 😀 This optical illusion is also factual — personal opinion of the Wiki editors can’t change the truth of it.
    I like the links you make between curiosity and interesting and then knowing.
    I confess “interesting” is one of my favorite words — but I can see how it can be misused to feign true interest to corrupt the real meaning of the word.

  3. I think/know you are right – it does get over used in the wrong context far too much.
    I use it a lot – every time I want to know more – or when something rings a bell with something else.

  4. Nicola —
    “Interesting” has become the new “wow” and the newer “really?” for most people.
    I agree “interesting” is my connective word to hook up disparate thoughts that others do not see as interrelated. I do try to keep from saying it out loud, now, though, so people don’t think I’m just lathering them up.

  5. I think I may after reading about that lecturer!
    Always useful to establish what certain words mean and that they mean the same to both/all parties in a conversation.

  6. Hi Nicola!
    In the case of the professor, she had us fooled, and many others fooled that “interesting” meant what we all thought it meant. It wasn’t until later that I figured out that everything she called “interesting” in our discussions she would later rip in papers and in private discussions with others.
    I decided to watch it silently alone for a time and when I saw a repeatable pattern develop, I told my coursemates about my hunch, they watched it too and agreed with me and we decided to keep it as our little secret weapon.
    The professor thought she was being earnest — I don’t think she is aware of that pattern to this day.
    I guess in poker you’d call that a “tell,” eh? 😀
    Sometimes “response cries” of a Goffman-esque guttural nature are best because they are more open to interpretation than words with precise decisions:
    “Um-hmm” can go so many ways!

  7. In our circles *FINE* is the one to watch …….
    especially when given by a female in answer to the question – are you all right?
    FINE =
    F***** UP
    Neurotic &
    In other words the total opposite !

  8. You may want to add these to your list ……..
    although not quite the same ……

  9. Those sound more familiar to me, Nicola. 😉
    I love how we define ideas and things and situations with a variety of words that can change meaning if you change the context.

  10. They are not grey. I check things for myself (if I use a calculator to do a sum, I check it by doing it again in my head…).
    That said, ‘interesting’ is often used as shorthand also for ‘yeah, ok, so?’ Which is rude if said aloud so we settle for ‘interesting’ to avoid hurt feelings.
    My reaction to the colour bit was – why is he saying they are both grey? Weird… 😉

  11. I couldn’t believe it – my eyes told me they were different. I put it into a program with an eyedropper function and drew two squares, filling the first with the color from square 1 and the second from square 2. Of course they were the same. What a shocker for me!

  12. Well done, Gordon!
    I love your technical testing chops! 😀
    I actually printed out the image on my color printer and cut out “A” and placed it on “B” and that was an incredible experience because even with “A” in my hand I thought it was much darker than “B” — until I actually placed “A” into “B” and saw the truth.

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