The Kanizsa triangle illusion in foraging ants

Tomoko Sakiyama*, Yukio Pegio Gunji

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The Kanizsa triangle, wherein three Pac-Man configurations symmetrically face inwards, is a well-known illusion. By exposing foraging ants (Lasius niger) to Kanizsa-shaped honeydew solutions, we studied the origin of this illusion. More specifically, we examined whether foraging ants showed different movement reactions to local honeydew patterns formed by nestmates. This novel phenomenon could serve as an abstract model of the Kanizsa triangle illusion under the assumption that such an illusion could arise through the sum of each agent's limited global cognitions, because each agent could not perceive the entire subjective contours. Even a subjective consciousness consists of some parts which have no identical perception and could be an illusion. We succeeded in inducing foragers to move along the sides of a Kanizsa triangle when Pac-Man-shaped inducers were introduced. Furthermore, foragers appeared to form Y-shaped trajectories when dot-shaped or inverse Kanizsa inducers were used. Based on our findings, we propose an agent-based ant model that compares modelled behaviour with experimental phenomena. Our abstract model could be used to explain such cognitive phenomena for bottom-up processes, because ants cannot perceive the given subjective contours, instead simply move along the edges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-14
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Apr 1


  • Foragers
  • Kanizsa triangle illusion
  • Lasius niger
  • Lower and higher-level
  • Swarm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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