First, a huge thank you to everyone who has helped put 59 Seconds into the Amazon UK top twenty – great to see a science book out-selling The Secret in the self-help section!

Yesterday I put a fun psychological test on Twitter.  If you missed it, take a quick look at the picture on the left and decide what might be happening.  Who are these people?  What is, has, or is going to happen?  Why?

Find out what this might reveal about you after the break!

The picture is the type of thing that you might find in the Thematic Apperception Test.  According to those who support such tests, the story that you created reflects your conscious and unconscious needs, motives, emotions, and conflicts.  Is that the case for your story?  Or is it all rubbish?  Either way, don’t take the results too seriously!  Post your story and conclusions!


  1. Just a bit of gossip.

    Let’s say the woman on the right
    works there, and the androgynous
    thing on the left is a customer.
    The old woman is telling that
    person something about another

    Am i boring? =D

  2. Mother on the right, daughter on the left, has just talked and decided a manner upon which to act on an current, but not serious problem. Mother is the advisor, daughter is about to do whatever is to be done. It may have to do with a child who misbehaved with granmas full blessing.

  3. The figure on the left is wondering why his/her bugle has been abducted by aliens, while the hideous apparition on the left attempts to convey telepathically the image of Boris Karloff on a tricycle.

    Does anyone have the phone number of a reasonably priced psychoanalyst?

  4. slight disagreement about whom the front shall approach. both still in reconnaisance mood, though. agreement may not be far.

  5. Here I was; thinking that it was the same person at different times of their life – the older and wiser self wishing she could advise the younger .. and lo and behold.. CLANG HONK TWEET put me on the right path of thinking. PLEASE, please, CHT put away your slothfulness and set the next Puzzle. I`m loving it!

    1. Yes, that was my thought, too. Wasn’t thinking of it in terms of myself, though. And I thought the older woman was just thinking about the things she did when much younger and how it affected her life. I’m at a stage of life in between the two women, but thinking about what I would want to be able to think back on when I’m old has informed the way I’ve lived my life so far in a fundamental way. I started wondering about that when I was in my late 20’s and it changed everything for me.

  6. When you posted tweeted this yesterday, all I could think was that they were both pondering something. What exactly, I don’t know. I’m not a mind reader. They are just ponderous people, contemplating stuff.

    I have never thought these types of tests to have any real validity. And it isn’t because it is in disagreement with my conscious or unconscious self but because it is so very subjective.

  7. I thought it might be a representation of the same person, the one on the left being the public face (what we say) and the one on the right being the private face (what we’re really thinking).

    Does that apply to me? Not sure, really. I’m a pretty open person, sometimes to the point of irritating others with my public introspection, so I’d say that in the context of the test this is probably a “miss”.

    …or am I just saying that? 🙂

  8. Mother and daughter together. Mother is slightly shy, so she tries to hide behind daughter. They’re meeting with someone, maybe a (forgotten) friend of the mother, or maybe a doctor.

    1. Yeah, my first thought was definitely snow white about to get poisoned by the woman disguised as an old woman…

  9. Joe Powers is lying to the young woman that he sees her sexy mother who used to be a nudist and very sexy every day, ….the ‘gohstly mother’ is actually quite amused by such flattery…

    Oooh yes, so true 🙂
    ‘As the saying goes: The truth is somehwere out there’

  10. This probably is about what is going on in our heads. I see an old woman and a young man, but everyone else is seeing a young woman. I find that interesting. What makes the young one a woman I wonder. Am I missing something :)… seriously though am I?

  11. Ok I’ll bite, it is a young girl getting a lesson in life from an old crone, one doing the telling and one afraid to listen or reluctant to listen. Love this stuff what I can see of it, the rest is on me.

    1. I got pretty much the same impression, although I see the young person as a young man, rather than a young woman.

      it seems the elder has offered some sagely advice, but there’s some incongruity with the stubbornly held, arrogant views of the younger…there’s a look of annoyance and amusement on his face, perhaps suggesting that he really knows that the elder is right, but this is discordant with his own thoughts/feelings on the issue, and the hubris has won out.

      the elder seems to pity this youth.

  12. I think it’s the same person, the young girl and the old woman she will become. Left hand side conventionally represents the future in Western pictures.

  13. The man is a transvestite and his mother is pondering his future.

    I’m don’t think this is an unconscious desire of mine, but if I thought it it wouldn’t be unconsious! Now where’s me lippy!

  14. I said: “Old woman is amused, tries to hold back her smile. Young woman is not amused, raises her eyebrow questioning.”

    I often find things funny when I shouldn’t, but doesn’t everyone?

  15. Old mother knows something the man-looking thing on the left doesn’t, which may possibly be an impending misfortune or something.

  16. i replied yesterday (old lady contemplating giving the young unsuspecting one a wet willy (wet finger in ear)….but the young one has a suspicion that something is about to happen. Either that or the old lady has just let one go and is waiting for the young one to realise…)
    which probably means that i have the mind of a 12 yr old boy lol. I am infact a 27 yr old woman 🙂

    What does this say about my mind, my desires? i enjoy having a laugh, like practical jokes….maybe i need to grow up lol

  17. I think the young man is an actor, and the old woman behind him is the wardrobe lady trying to decide how to transform him into charactor.
    Either that or she some old witch or gypsy (no offence to any real witchs or gypsies) and she’s thinking up some evil curse to put on him.

  18. I find it irritating that both are looking in complete opposite direction but I’d say the old woman looks amused. Her lips are smiling and not pressed together.
    If they wouldn’t look into opposite directions I would have said the young woman’s new boyfriend has come into sight so the younger one looks at him expecting him to recognise her whilst the old one is amused about the young couple.

  19. My thought was that the woman on the left is anxious and the older woman on the right is passing on gossip or advice, whilst trying to appear inconspicuous(?).
    As an explaination of how I’m feeling at the moment this is probably quite accurate, although I have had fun reading eveyone elses posts- it never occurred to me that the one on the left could be a man or that the old woman could have farted!!

  20. I just thought that they were getting ready for a photo to be taken. I see the androgynous figure as male too.

  21. The younger women is looking in the mirror and sees there a reflection of the person that others see her to be — the person she wants them to see. But also, always with her — her true self.
    ‘You may fool others, my dear, but you can’t fool yourself.’ An ever torment.

  22. Hmm… I thought the old woman behind was removing her face… not a person at all but kind of like a masked ghoul. Just popping out to the medicine cabinet now

  23. They look like they are having a good gossip about someone. The older lady whispering scandal in the younger lady (or feminine looking man’s) ear.

  24. I think the old lady has just put a sign saying “Kick Me” or similar on the back of the androgynous young man, or is about to give him a wedgie, or goose him, or something along those lines – she looks quite mischievious.
    Or maybe he’s wearing his trousers in the style of Tinie Tempah, ie bottom hanging out, and she is stifling a laugh.

  25. As a person who has been subjected to a great deal of psychological testing himself, I’ve never been any good with projective tests… recently had a weird test done on me called the Wartegg (possibly the single most bollocksed up test this side of the Rorschach), and I only did four of the items, and the clinician still used the results from the test!

    As a psychologist myself, I’ve never really been tempted to actually use a projective test… as Anastasi said, they tell more about the tester’s personality than that of the testee. I do occasionally use non-standardised tests (Repertory Grid, for example) but they are actually much more useful than anything projective yet they can be subjected to statistical analysis (as can standardised tests) AND still retain those lovely things that pick up what we look for in qualitative assessment!

    Jellycakes… get help! 😉

  26. Here is a woman making a decision with a mind to the future and how it will turn out / seem when she is old … a wise decision for which she has consulted her “inner crone.”
    Her young eyes look forward; her inner crone “looks back.”

  27. Of course these tests have validity, precisely because they are subjective. The very fact that a person says ‘this test is invalid’ could reveal interesting aspects of that person’s character. If you are an art therapist, you have to interpret the subject’s art regularly. This reveals similar aspects, only of a viewer not an artist. It is not very scientific, and possibly can be overinterpreted (like dream analysis – uuurgh), but it could be a way to start a therapy session. Like Rorschach blots (is that spelt correctly?). I would stay away from textbook interpretations. Freud has a lot to answer for.
    I see a woman and her mother/grandmother. A man has entered the room. At some point recently he said something quite inane and possibly offensive. The wife is keeping her cool, but is not really happy (false smile).
    The grandmother is thinking ‘well, I told you he was a doughnut, but did you listen? Had to marry him, didn’t you. You are both bloody idiots’.

  28. I immediately thought of them as mother and daughter.

    They seem to be standing around idly waiting for someone or something. Let’s say a train. The mother is daydreaming and something she saw made her think of a pleasant experience from her past.

  29. The young man is about to confront somebody who has just acted rudely or inappropriately. The old woman is nervous about the young man getting hurt as a result but is at the same time proud.

  30. I think it is a young man and his elderly mother. They look like they are anticipating something happy. She looks like she knows what is going to happen and is a bit sly about it, but he looks a little wary/surprised.

  31. I see two people who were randomly pulled off the street by a painter looking for models. The old lady is trying to pose all nicely, while the young guy fancies the painter and is trying to flirt.

  32. I think it is a young person who is looking a round and doesn’t know that an old hag is about to sprinkle on mega aging pixie dust and the old hag is looking at me so as to let me know what she is about to do as she wants me to watch….to have a special shared moment where someone else is going to get the shaft for a pleasant change….hehe…. so I wonder what that is supposed to mean?

  33. Is it totally sad I don’t see a story? All I see are two strangely drawn people lol. I don’t even know where to begin with a story 😦

  34. I see them both present in the same room (no fancy metaphor here) and both longing for something, but not the same for each since their eyes look into different directions… no parenthood here, since they are not looking after shared interests. Is more like, the old lady said something, launched a seed which got the younger to think and consider while the older is dreaming about what may grow up from there, but close enough to restart the conversation. The drawing appear to be in an old style so the theme I projected on it was one of the old matchmakings stories of the past, the crone perhaps a professional matchmaker or maybe the (grand)mother of a suitor.

    I find interesting that Richard distanced himself from the “Thematic Apperception Test” supporters (by naming them as such), implying some element of caution or doubt about them. I wonder if that was what caused some derisive comments (“mob mentally”) or simply those are to expect whenever a challenge like this is present (because if it’s true that people can be known through their interpretation of these tests, then maybe is “better” to disguise what they think and joke about them… although in a way, the jokes also reveal something about themselves too).

    It is not difficult to me to believe that the Thematic Apperception Test supporters might be right, although is a different matter if they will be able to extract useful information from that (if everything in the universe is connected through forces, maybe there is some truth about the possibility of tea leaves foretelling… but that doesn’t it is going to be easy, or even humanly possible to do that). For the idea to work, there must be some ambiguity about the test… to allow choices. If the image is too precise, people will tell simply what is there, but in choosing, they show with what histories they are familiarized or are motivating them. I saw an young woman there, others saw a man, some say the old woman is whispering, I can’t see a thing of that there. Why I saw there a matchmaking? Maybe I’m a romantic loner. Others saw a domestic situation in progress. Most interesting is the ones who saw two versions of the same self… quite sophisticated, and interesting because instead of a company of two, they reduce the picture to a person alone… but not suffering because of that. The old one is clearly in a secondary position (behind the younger) and yet, she’s bemused. No one likes the feeling of being second so, is that picture’s interpretation a defense mechanism for people more prone to empathy with wold woman?… if they are the same person, then there will be no seconds. Or is that a sign of a greater autonomy of the women of today? What would have be the comments a century ago?

    I’m no psychologist so, these conjectures of mine are totally amateurs, and probably as revealing of of as the story I “made”.


  35. They are about to undergo a transformation whereby the younger woman gains immortality (but must look like the older woman for eternity) while the older woman is about to get youth and beauty but for only a few short years. This image captures their contemplation before the transfer.

  36. My first thought was how the heck should I know what they’re up to?
    My next thought was they were waiting for something. Perhaps a punchline. Or a bus.

  37. i thought it was that optical illusion with that woman that looked both young and old, but I was a bit hyper….

  38. The two people are friends. The figure on the right is holding a mask in front of his/her face in order to play a joke on the figure on the left. When the figure on the left turns around she will at first be surprised, and then she will laugh.

  39. It’s the mother and the crone, and they are looking at the out of picture maiden, and so the cycle of life goes on.

  40. To me I imagine a sort of “devil on your shoulder” scene – the old woman/mother is planting little ideas in the younger woman’s head, manipulating her…

  41. Ok. I see 2 women watching the same scene in a room. Perhaps someone entering the room. The young woman has a cold look in her eyes. Perhaps she sees an old lover who abandoned her. The old woman in the back watches in anticipation of things to happen: even a little bit amused. Something’s about to happen.

  42. They are both the same person. The older self is reminiscing about her youth, vitality and androgynous good looks. The younger self is yearning for the self awareness, serenity and wisdom of her older self.

  43. Not a good test for those of us a long way down the Asperger’s scale. I see two people. How on earth would I know what they are thinking? Do they know what I am thinking? I hope not!


  44. Looks to me like the older woman is whispering something rude about someone “off-screen”, and the one on the left is looking at the subject of her comment.

    Looking at it a bit longer, they both look rather wistful. Perhaps both thinking of a loved one.

  45. I think the image is off a young woman and her chapperon. There might be a man outside the image, looking at the younger woman (she is playing it cool, and looking away- or hasn’t noticed him). But the older woman has seen him, and she is behaving like a caring family chaperone.

  46. Interesting bits of detail that people add. But I didn’t notice anyone mention the fact that the two people are looking in opposite directions. Two other people coming into the room, perhaps?

  47. I saw it to be the crone from snow white sneaking up on the prince, about to kill him and stop him rescuing snow white, thus messing up the story. I dunno what that says about me. Probably that I’m really weird. Nothing new there :/

  48. Can anyone explain to me why WordPress notifies me of every comment posted, when all I ask for is follow-up comments? What if I only want to be told when someone actually replies to MY post? Is that not possible? If not, it seems insane…

  49. The women are friends, and the older woman has arranged for the younger woman’s best friend from childhood to visit. The younger woman is expecting a pleasant surprise, but doesn’t know what it is yet, and the older woman is enjoying the memory of when someone did a similar thing for her.

  50. I’m with Adam rummaging in the medicine cabinet. Looks like the old crone is about to remove her hideous mask. The person in front is completely oblivious to what is going on behind.

  51. first I thought thes were the two faces in the picture ”old woman young woman”
    They look familiar this is because of the hand of the painter.
    So clear mother and daughter. They saw something mother saw years earlier and she is thinking back. It gives her a good feeling.
    Daughter is atracted to what she sees.
    So I say they see a man and she had the same taste as her daughter has now. She knows because she have been there and she knows her daughter looks like her.

    1. I, too, thought it was the women from the famous “Old Woman, Young Woman” illusion. Now they have their separate identities back!

  52. they are the same person. The old woman is thinking how beautiful she was and what if she had taken another decision when younger.

  53. To me, they’re just two people. I can’t detect a story or anything going on between them.
    Which I guess is probably quite descriptive of me, since I’m quite the one for liking my own company and letting other people do whatever it is they want to do.

  54. To me, it looks like the one on the right is taking off a mask that looks like an old woman and the person on the right (i thought at first was a woman but am now second guessing…) is oblivious to the evil person behind him who is tricking him and plans to kill him/her.

    Wow that sounds downright evil.

  55. I thought “cool another RW optical illusion” and even recognized the old lady from a previous optical illusion posted on this blog, but then realized it was some silly psychological test and lost interest.

  56. I too saw Snow White and the crone (though not a very good likeness of Snow White) … Snow White’s just eaten the apple, doesn’t feel so good, crone is waiting for her to fall unconscious.

    Also briefly saw the crone as someone younger holding up a mask but it didn’t go anywhere…

  57. I think the woman on the right is telling the younger woman on the left some bad stuff about someone the latter trusts. You can clearly see that the younger woman is upset after hearing it.

  58. without reading any earlier posts that may influence my answer, my initial reaction is this.

    To me it is a painting version of someone popping up at the last second in the photograph just as the button is pressed, and more humourously, for once, the tables are reversed, an old lady intruding in a young mans picture.

    And yes, it does reflect on the psychology of myself, because that is EXACTLY what I would do if was either the painter, subject or the old woman.

    Very funny picture, makes me smile 🙂

  59. Shit on a stick!

    Just read through the comments above. Blimey O’ Rielly.

    Man, woman, boy or girl, it’s amazing how people percieve this, and in such different ways, I REALLY would love to know your thoughts on how this reflects our personalities, I mean, its quite obvious in one degree, but is it just a state of mind when initially seeing it, or is there a deeper personality trait giveaway going on here?

  60. the old hag face is a mask hiding a long lost relation, she’s just pointed to something in the distance to get the young figure to look away. She’s in the process of taking off her mask so when the young one looks back it’ll be a big reveal.

    I don’t know what this says about me, I’m currently going throug one of the most stressful times of my life so far and am a naturally gloomy person, but this is a happy ending scenario. Also I have no history of lost relations which raises the question, WHERE THE HECK DID THAT COME FROM?!

  61. A woman’s imagination is taking form behind her back. The old woman is her and her imagined pain. But it is all a mask held by the hand of a shadow. The malevolence within her own heart.

  62. The young and the old woman are firmly looking away from each other. The younger womans eyes are on the future, or maybe the present. Her posture is slightly stiff, her chin drawn in towards her neck, indicating that she’s strained somehow. The older woman is looking off towards the past where everything was ‘better.’ She is holding her mouth, possibly in an attempt to refrain from saying something, or giving advice to the younger woman, but she’s not having an easy time holding it in. Maybe the strained posture and the averted stance of the younger woman suggests that the older woman hasn’t always been so withholding?

  63. I think the young girl is looking at a man she likes (just at the start of their affair, nothing has happened yet, but will), while the old woman is looking at another man who loves the girl without the girl’s knowledge. She is amused in an ‘ah this is life’ way rather than cruelly enjoying the situation.

    So what does this all tell us about ourselves?

  64. The old woman is the young woman’s conscience – the way the younger’s eyes are going to the right mean she’s left the straight and narrow life and is looking at a man who isn’t her husband. Either that or it’s Hildegaard of Bingen and Lucie Skeaking!

  65. Yeah, I saw a young androgynous man and an older drag queen, probably one new to the world of drag, because (s)he seems to be laughing nervously. He’s pretty confident with his metrosexual self.

  66. and yes, gender non-conformity is a huge part of my life. I’m personally rather feminine in many ways, but those around me generally are all over the place.

  67. the lady infront is looking away from you, trying to avoid the problem, she is a very shy person inside, but is forcing herself to show a more normal, confident side. The woman infront has a dark side that comes out often, ususally when her normal side breaks, and right now she is struggeling to keep the bad side closed – she is trying her hardest t not look at it and cover it up yet the dark side is out and staring straight into the problem

  68. old sly woman near to grinning. she wonders what her granddaughter’s sceptic response will be. the younger holds a hjope in check.

  69. The older woman on the right is the mother. The woman to the left is the daughter. In this photo, the old, wrinkly mother has recently discovered the internet. She is obsessed with photo-bombing.

    She continually uses her unforgiving looks for highly effective photo-bombs at family gatherings, weddings, dinners, and so on.

    The daughter was attempting to take a semi-serious, self-taken photo for her facebook account when, out of no where, her wrinkled, shrew-faced mother photo-bombs another one of her photos. The daughter saw her mother’s reflection in the lens right as she approached, but continued to let the self-timer wear off. The daughter figures she can show the photo to her mother later so she is able to see her annoyed, disgruntled facial expression. Her only hope, at this point in time, is to move out of the house to get away from her mother.

  70. The old woman is senile, and the young woman is her carer. They’re taking a walk through the market to stimulate the old woman’s mind; she’s enjoying herself, but she’s too far gone to have any idea where she is.

  71. for me..those women are snow white and the witch..the witch was observing snow white after receiving the apple.,

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