Differences between illusion and hallucination

Illusion x hallucination: Differences and examples

Illusions and hallucinations are two terms that come up when we talk about perception. These, however, do not mean the same thing. In fact, there is a fundamental difference between an illusion and a hallucination.

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An illusion is a misperception. Or, in other words, it is when something seems to be something else. On the other hand, hallucinations refer to false perceptions. The main difference between illusion and hallucination is that, while a stimulus exists in the case of an illusion, it does not exist in hallucinations . Through this article, we will examine the differences between illusion and hallucination in depth.

What is an illusion?

An illusion refers to a misperception . In simpler terms, illusions distort the reality of objects. Illusions tend to deceive most people and are considered normal. They are not restricted to a particular sensing organ, although visual illusions are highlighted. It is important to note that other forms of illusions such as auditory and tactile illusions also exist. In Gestalt psychology , there is an emphasis on perception and the illusions that people may have. Gestalt psychologists point out several organizational principles that are important when studying human perception and illusions.

What exactly is considered an illusion? For something to be an illusion, there must be an external stimulus. For example, a branch of a tree can be perceived as an animal in the dark. This is a common mistake that we all tend to make. This can be categorized as a visual illusion. But hallucinations are very different from illusions . Let’s understand why.

What is a hallucination?

Hallucinations refer to false perceptions . The fundamental characteristic is that, in hallucinations, there are no external stimuli. Thus, they can be the result of internal stimulation. Hallucinations are not universal, as in the case of illusions. On the contrary, they tend to be unique and personal. In psychology, we study several mental disorders that cause experiences of hallucinations.

Let’s take a small example. In Shakespeare’s drama “Macbeth”, Macbeth begins to hallucinate when the story progresses. He begins to see Banquo’s ghost. There are no external stimuli here. Thus, it can be considered as a hallucination that results from Macbeth’s heavy conscience. Even on a daily basis, people can experience hallucinations. Hallucinations are considered as one of the symptoms of schizophrenia, a mental disorder.

What is the difference between illusion and hallucination?

Definitions of illusion and hallucination:

Illusion: illusion is a misperception.

Hallucination: Hallucinations refer to false perceptions.

Characteristics of illusion and hallucination:

External stimuli:

Illusion: In the case of an illusion, an external stimulus is present.

Hallucination: In hallucinations, an external stimulus is not present.


Illusion: Illusions are universal.

Hallucination: Hallucinations are not universal. They are personal.


Illusion:  people can usually experience illusions.

Hallucination: Hallucinations are experienced by people with mental disorders, under the effect of hallucinogenic substances, among other specific cases.

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