Here is a nice and new (kinda) Christmas illusion…

The left face appears to look directly at you while the right one looks to your right, even though the two images are (almost) identical. This phenomenon was proposed by the English scientist William Hyde Wollaston in the early 1800s.

What do you think, does it work for you?

Update: I thought it was obvious that the eyes, clothes, arms, and background are identical, but that the face and hair are mirrored. Sorry for the inaccurate wording!


  1. The two images aren’t identical, though. One is most definitely facing to the left, making it so the eyes are looking toward you, and the other one is facing to the right, making the eyes (which are still on the right hand side of the sclera) appear to be looking off to the right.

    The two images are mirroring each other EXCEPT for the eyes.

    1. Face and hair are mirrored, yep. Eyes, clothes, arms, and stars are identical.

      But to blanket-say, “the two images are identical” is inaccurate.

      And happy Christmas, everyone! (Or whatever mid-winter observance you celebrate. 😀 )

  2. It’s not really true to say the images are identical. The noses and ears have been switched but the placement of the eyes hasn’t been switched to compensate, hence the illusion. If the eyes were also placed relative to the nose and ears she would be looking at us consistently.

  3. They are not quite identical. The ear and nose are flipped, making the head appear to be turned in opposite directions.

  4. I sure do perceive the gazes differently. The only identical part between the two portraits are the eyes. Everything else, including the shape of the face is redrawn and different, mirrored or not.

    I opened the image in an editor and erased the noses, mouths, and ears – no change in my perceived gaze. I then grabbed the right pair of eyes, nudged it leftwards, and painted out the original pair. Result: straight gaze, even with the rouge spots still around. This tells me that we judge gaze by the relationship between the iris and the position of the eyes on the outline of the face. The latter tells us the direction the face is oriented at and the former the direction the eyes gaze at with respect to the face.

    It is amazing how little it takes (for most of us) to “compute” all this, and trigger face recognition in general. Alas, we’re easily taken in by false positives (hence, pareidolia.)

    1. This makes perfect sense. We deal with faces (and especially gaze) almost instinctively. A predator looking at you and a predator looking away from you have completely different meanings, and it’s pretty obviously important from a survival point of view to be able to distinguish the two quickly.

  5. The images are not identical, nor are they even mirror image except for the eyes as previous posters have said. The hats are very different for a start. Arms are the same, while the bodies are reflected. Hardly an illusion is it?

  6. Okay, please explain yourself Richard, or else you are just full of shit. The two images are certainly NOT identical. What is the trick or the joke here? Because I just don’t get it?????

  7. The two images are almost identical: the face is mirrored, accept for the eyes.
    Watching it as a stereograph shows that the eyes and clothing are exactly the same in both images.

    Not the best one ever, but I like it.

  8. I liked it but I didn’t think they were identical since their noses pointed in opposing directions. However, I still got the sensation that one was staring at me!

  9. Simple explanation:
    In both pictures, the identical eyes are turned slightly to the right, but the gaze is perceived differently because of the position of the eyes relative to the rest of the face.
    As the left face is pointing left, the right-pointing eyes appear to be gazing straight out towards the viewer. Conversely, as the right face is pointing right, the right-pointing eyes appear to be gazing off to the right.

    On another note, can I wish all of you (even the unbelievers) a Happy Christmas!

  10. Anyone who’s made fleeting eye contact with another driver at a road junction will know that we judge gaze direction by a subtle but near instantaneous analysis of the relationship between the horizontal angle of their face and the direction of their gaze as judged by the position of their eyeballs relative to their whole eye socket.

    This image clearly reflects that – I’d happily signal the left girl to cross lanes, knowing that she’d seen me, but I’d definitely wait until the right girl either turned her head towards me OR turned her gaze towards me by moving her eyeballs to the right side of her eyes.

  11. Oh, Richard,

    Didn’t you put the cat amongst the pigeons with this one!

    As so many have pointed out there are, of course, several variations between the two images. However, the eyes have it. I think that the ‘illusion’ is created by the fact that:

    • the left face is angled to the right, by the eyes, ears, nose and mouth being placed left of centre and the girl’s left ear is showing,


    • the right face is angled to the left, by the eyes, ears, nose and mouth being placed right of centre and the girl’s right ear is showing.

    Whilst most features are flipped horizontally, the eyes alone are simply moved across, unflipped. (The iris is on the right of the eye socket in both faces.) Thus, where the eyes are glancing to the left in the face angled to the right, giving a head-on stare; the eyes on the face angled to the left are glancing further to the left, giving the coy, looking-away appearance.

    That all sounds a bit involved, but that’s how I see it.

  12. The two images ARE NOT identical. Some things stayed in place while others were mirrored plus some things were altered completely. In case of eyes… they stayed in the same place but the face/head/ear were mirrored. The reason the eyes don’t look straight at you in the second image is because while the face was mirrored the eyes weren’t thus giving the illusion of not looking at you but to the right. Plus if you switched the image placement (move the right to the left and the left to the right) then I bet the eyes of the previous right one will be looking straight at you and the eyes of the previous left one will be looking to the right side. I think it also has to do with image placement (if you move over and place the left image to your most right it will no longer be looking straight at you).

    1. “Plus if you switched the image placement […]”

      No, that doesn’t work. Try it; it’s easy to do with any paint program.

  13. If I turn my head to the right and my eyes on the other direction, I’m looking ahead. Sorry but I don’t see any illusion here: it’s how it works.

  14. This isn’t particularly interesting and is just due to the positioning of the nose and the eyeballs in their sockets.

    When the eyes look the opposite direction to the way the nose is pointing they appear to look at you. This seems obvious, as when you turn your head to one side and then move your eyes back you are essentially looking straight forward.

    But when the eyes look to the same side that the nose is pointing, they appear to look away. This is because when you turn your head to one side and your eyes also look to this side, then you are clearly no longer looking straight forward – you are looking even further to the side.

  15. Interesting, it seems the relative positions of the nose to the eyes gives the impression of gaze direction….. Nose left, eyes right = looking at you. Nose right, eyes right = looking to your right.

  16. Ooh, I love this ‘illusion’. It’s so weird: when you draw someone looking ahead they appear to look ahead; when you draw them looking away they look away. Spooky!

  17. Bizarre. It’s quite clear to me that the images are exactly identical. I even superimposed one image on top of the other to make sure there wasn’t any cheating. How is it possible that the eyes can look different ways in two precisely identical images? It’s just MAD!!!

  18. I’d like to see it with all things being equal except for the nose and mouth. To do that, you might have to have both ears covered as well. Will try it in Photoshop later if I have time.

  19. It’s the Mitchell Johnson of illusions really. In the left picture her eyes are bowling an inswinger pitching on the nose and dangerously holding their line, whereas on the right they drift relatively harmlessly across the nose, following the natural angle and missing off-stump. That’s my way of making sense of it, anyhow.

  20. …Ok.. So, now lets summarising and analyzing on the mathematic way:
    The Eyes are identical, but they look obviously in different directions. The Point is where the face (nose) is looking.

    Left = -1, right = +1 (left and right always watched from the viewers position).
    Left Picture: Eyes +1 + Face -1, Result 0 (middle)
    Right Picture: Eyes +1 + Face +1, Result +2 (clearly right).
    The Effect is especially visible by the left eye, the right eye is drawned nearly in the middle, dont know why, because its not really correct.

  21. I agree with what safc4ever, and the anonymous writer just following safc4ever, have described about what makes the eyes appear to be looking in different directions.

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