I just don’t get this….


OK, first some news – Paranormality is now available as an iBook in the USA!

Second, everyone has been sending me this and saying it is wonderful….

But the odd thing is that I just don’t get the illusion.  It does nothing for me.  Am I the only one?


96 comments on “I just don’t get this….

  1. Run the video a bit faster if you can. I suspect what’s going on is that your mind is trying to parse out the faces; because they’re changing, the difference between your expectation and the new frame becomes perceived as uglier than it is.

    If you recognize faces fast, or have a lot of practice seeing a lot of faces at once (say, going to cons), you might have to speed the video up to get the full effect.

    • Rayne says:

      Yeah, maybe because I guess I wasn’t getting it though I am used to being around a lot of people at cons and clubs and stuff.

  2. Grenangle says:

    It works for me and my wife. She wears glasses I do not.

  3. Nina says:

    works for me. they look monstrous when i keep my eyes on the cross and perfectly normal when i look directly at their faces

    • The Nerd says:

      Odd, because even when focusing directly on the faces, some of them looked very distorted (e.g. unnaturally large foreheads or eyes too close together).

  4. Sleve says:

    Freaky!. For me, the right face distorted more than the left.

  5. Colin Coghill says:

    If I look at the faces individually (hitting pause occasionally, perhaps) they’re all quite normal looking.

    But if I stare at the cross, the faces look mostly grotesque and distorted.

    Not sure if it’s the effect of the animation or if it’s a peripheral vision thing maybe.

  6. Hm… aye, you must be the only one. When I look directly to the girls, they look good. But when I focus the cross, they seem to be very monstrous.

  7. Matt says:

    Definitely worked for me. The eyes get disproportionately huge and the faces get all distorted. *Brrrrr* Spooky.

  8. Jason says:

    Naw, I totally saw it. I totally saw the faces in my periphery become strange and distorted. I wasn’t sure what to expect: when I first watched it I thought that, interspersed with the faces, there were photos of bizarre ones. On the second viewing I just watched the faces and didn’t see any that were nearly as strange. I dug it.

  9. halfer says:

    Yeah, pretty amazing. Worked for me the first time

  10. Richard@Home says:

    That works for me, and is quite freaky! O.o

  11. I didn’t experience anything first time around. However if I focused quite strictly on the centre cross, the faces seem to exaggerate and distort their features in a fairly astonishing manner. Strangely if you do this with pictures of Ann Widdecombe there is absolutely no effect.

  12. At first viewing of the video you have here I was with you, thinking what was suppose to happen here? I don’t get it. So I follow the link to YouTube and looked in the comments and went to the http://mbthompson.com/research/ link. On that page is an explanation, but that didn’t really help; however it clicked when I viewed the smaller video on that page.

    First, you should view from a distance from the screen, not up close. Keep your eyes focused on the cross and just sort of perceive the faces as they flash. The faces will seem almost cartoonish, with distorted features; yet if you watch the video over looking at either side, they are all just “regular” faces.

  13. Steve Jones says:

    Playing the video full screen on a vary large monitor does have some effect, but quite simply you end up with the girls’ faces firmly within your peripheral vision area (I always suspect it’s difficult to keep your eyes’ central vision area tightly focussed without some wandering when the field of vision is narrow). That does make some of the faces give the impression of being a bit grotesque, but it’s hardly a firm one.

    To be honest, I find it a bit difficult to know what they are up to. Peripheral vision is not exactly tuned to give detailed impressions of beauty – it’s more tuned towards movement and the like.

    • Engywuck says:


    • Jeremy says:

      I would agree with motion sensitive peripheral vision idea. The faces are in a random order with no sorting of features, such as hairline, jawline, face width or such. If they were ordered with gradual change in any such feature, I would suspect the ‘warping’ from one image to the next wouldn’t be perceived as so monstrous.That would be because the change from fat face to skinny face would not occur so rapidly and wouldn’t be noticed as easily

  14. significance says:

    It works very effectively for me at full screen size, but does nothing when small.

  15. The effect I saw was this: If I watched the faces go by directly, they seemed like a normal array of women’s faces over a range of standard human attractiveness, subject to personal taste. When I looked at the cross, the (presumably identical) faces in my periphery appeared grotesque and hideously deformed, almost as if portions were hand draw far out of proportion. It seemed rather striking and fairly interesting to me. Still, perhaps the effect is faked or doesn’t work for some?

  16. Sari1967 says:

    I think it is that you only see bits of the faces when you put them together they make monster faces. It took towards the end of the video to see the effect with me.

  17. Mark says:

    I’m with you Richard – no grotesquity at all.

  18. Anonymous says:

    make it full screen

    if there is too much peripheral input it doesn’t seem work

  19. anaglyph says:

    Yes, works for me. Some kind of persistence of vision in the peripheral vision. Very odd.

  20. The Pick Man says:

    “I just don’t get this….” Nor me.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I watched it three times and was surprised each time when it ended that nothing happened. The third time I even took my eyes of the cross and actually looked at the faces, still nothing. Hmmmmmm……. I kept thinking I would see the original pair again they would somehow be perceived as ugly.

  22. Charlotte says:

    Definitely works for me! Very clever-they all look like monsters!

  23. The other Matt says:

    This video stresses the “human face recognition”-function of our brain. When you stare on the cross you will guess only the shape. The faces change too quickly to see the details, so i think you interchange parts of different faces to a new (ugly) face.

  24. klaunert says:

    At first i wasn´t sure what to expect too. But I had the impression that there were ugly, monster, bizarre faces between normal ones…

  25. D says:

    Works for me.

  26. Beaky says:

    Definitely worked for me – faces looked monsterish.
    Viewed from 18 inches on 11 inch screen, not enlarged.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Works for me — very strange!

  28. Berber Anna says:

    It works for me. I thought it was fake at first, that the faces actually changes to monstrous images, but when I looked at them straight they looked normal. Haven’t a clue how it works.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t realise it was working until I watched it through looking at the faces and not the cross and realised what I was supposed to be seeing. It is very strange now I know … their features get all muddled up.

  30. fluffy says:

    It works for me, yeah. My guess is that what happens is that when it’s outside of your primary vision, the motion detection takes over from the shape detection, and the brain is just warping around the original face based on the perceived motion changes.

  31. Well, it’s definitely working for me 😀

  32. Vicki Whelan says:

    not much happening for me just flashing faces but i look at people all day for my job

  33. Bjørnar says:

    Worked for me as well. Focusing on the cross made the faces look freaky. In fact I thought they were freaky and couldn’t figure out what was supposed to happen, so I watched it again without focusing on the cross.

  34. Ann Kittenplan says:

    Works a treat. I see plenty of cyclopses and other hideous disfigurements, well as much as you can ‘see’ peripherally anyway.

    Interestingly, for me the mutation focuses on the eyes, which are of consistent size when viewed directly, whereas the shape and relative size of the faces changes. Does this begin to account for the illusion?

    Question. Did those who say it didn’t work (including Richard) actually follow the instructions?

  35. Eoin says:

    Richard, this will only appear normal, if you surround yourself, on a regular basis, to people who are hideously deformed monsters.

  36. I like it! The faces become pretty messed up and grotesque

  37. Heather S. says:

    Worked for me, makes them look like they have huge eyes and sometimes huge mouths/lips.
    But I wear glasses and yet my astigmatism isn’t fully corrected so I wonder if that has something to do with it.

  38. I get the illusion even when I just look at one of the faces! They’re not as horrible as when I look at the cross, but I see some really ugly faces in there. But when I hit Pause and look at them as still images, they’re all quite normal…

  39. monxas says:

    well, of course is working for me since i’m the one that sent it to you. ( @monxas )
    try to stand a bit close so the faces get into more like in the peripherical view.
    you’re welcome.

  40. Anonymous says:

    The way I see it ( 😉 ), the effect comes from the fact that faces with differing ratio’s are all shown fitted to the same eye-distance and position. If you take this one dimension (eye-distance) as a standard, all other dimensions become relative to that, and differences (which are plenty) reveal themselves, especially in peripheral vision. When you focus on a single face, your brain starts seeing them as faces again. Fixing the eye distance tricks your brain into comparing other ratio’s / distances (seeing just the shape), thus ‘de-facing’ the faces.

  41. Derek Walker says:

    Defo works for me!

  42. If you don’t see it, move closer.

  43. Paul says:

    Quite freaky. The faces appear like grotesque characters from Shrek – completely distorted and all out of proportion. Only works if you remain focused on the dot and avoid the temptation to look directly at the faces themselves.

  44. Adam says:

    They look just as creepy when viewed directly.

    There is no effect whatsoever. I guess they are blurrier when you focus on the middle.

  45. Neuroskeptic says:

    Works for me, although it’s hard to pin down exactly what I see, it is definately not pretty.

    I suspect what’s going on is that as the faces rapidly change, you only have time to notice certain parts of the “new” face (eyes and mouth – we know that our gaze tends to gravitate to these when looking at a face) while you’re still seeing the rest of the “old” face.

    the result is a hybrid face which looks out of proportion.

    I guess.

  46. Seems to work for me, but the effect is relatively subtle and hard to be sure of since the stimuli change so fast.

  47. Anonymous says:

    that is quite bizarre. I saw monkeypeople, birdwomen, horsefaces, cyclops…

    • Lazy T says:

      and trolls and gnomes, pigpeople and lots of grotesques and gargoyles…..
      What a good illusion!

  48. Marc says:

    I’m hungover and the effect is utterly horrendous. It’s like a disturbing acid trip. I actually feel sick….

  49. Once I realised what I was supposed to be seeing, I noticed it quite strongly. Some of the faces seemed ridiculously deformed — as in, completely cartoonish — some having 3 or 4 eyes.

  50. DutchGuy says:

    Interesting. Graphic artists, painters, basically use the same principle. When you look at a certain point in a piece of art you’ll see the rest slightly distorted, more vague. An artist can steer you, decide what points feel the most natural. Your first attention will go to these points. He may exaggerate the distortion in other places which become other places of focus as your eyes move there. Then the distortion of other places is exaggerated. In this way a piece of art is developed.

    It’s a bit difficult to explain. It has a lot to do with composition, balance, symmetries and ‘distortion’ can be anything like simplifying things, adding (the illusion of) details, playing with color contrasts, that sort of things. Look at Cubism. Picasso is an excellent example, in some of his work he actually exaggerated the same kind of distortion you see in this video. In other occasions he reversed the process.Try looking at Picasso paintings the same way you were looking at this video. Look at certain points but be aware of what is happening around your point of focus.

  51. I find it strongest at some smallish distance form my screen. Too close or too far and it doesn’t work. At the right distance, it’s quite unsettling. I wondered if it was something to do with erroneous interpolation of the the blind spot (although the geometry doesn’t seem right).

  52. I actually get a mild version of the effect even if I look at just one set of faces (rather than the cross.) The quick changes between the faces mean that rather than identify a face as a new, normal-looking image, i instead see it in the context of the previous face. so a standardly round face kind of looks like a weirdly bloated version of the face i just saw.

  53. Edgar 2 says:

    Startling and extremely weird. Very effective in full screen, less so in small format.

  54. Match says:

    Holy shit. This is probably the best illusion I’ve ever seen.

    • Sebastián Hoch says:

      It’s amazing! I couldn’t believe they could look SO distorted the first time I watched it.

  55. NoAstronomer says:

    I just downed a few pints and they all look attractive.

  56. Works better for me when viewed smaller, or on full screen sized, but a few feet back.

    Experiment with distance from the screen.

  57. Mark says:

    I’m with RW. This seems like not so much an illusion as a way to accentuate the normal variations among human faces and make them more obvious. It uses women’s faces because we allow women a much narrower range of beauty than men.

  58. Paul says:

    Yeah worked for me too.
    It was a bit like a horror film where you get a flash of the inner monstrous reality but when you look directly all looks normal.
    I was convinced that they mixed in some distorted faces in with the normal ones but as has been said if you look directly they all look normal.

  59. Greg23 says:

    None of them looked ugly to me. But then again, I’d been drinking.

    Just kidding.

  60. dani, the geek says:

    it appeared to me that the new features weren’t all seen by my brain at the same time, so the faces i was “seeing” were stitched together out of parts of different faces. there was a noticeable, but less pronounced, effect when i watched the faces the second time through.

  61. Henry Ruddle says:

    My guess is that the effect has to do with the blind spot in our eyes and that the distortions are caused by our brains doing their best to fill in the details based on fuzzy data.

  62. Magic Nuts says:

    Works for me, although the effect is perhaps not as pronounced for some people.

  63. Anonymous says:

    Nothing ! – Probably be seeing all those faces in my dreams tonight though !

  64. mie says:

    Totally works for me. I think must work similarly as the bloody mary illusion. You know, the one where you stare at your face in the mirror in a dimly lit room for a while (presumably chanting “bloody mary” three times at the same time), and suddenly you see your face morphing into a monster face. It must be connected to the fact that we pay very particular attention to faces (just two dots and a line will be easily perceived as a face), and any slight distortion to the image of a face, caused by your brain “filling in” areas within the field of your perpheral vision, will make a huge difference to that image.

  65. sohvan says:

    The faces look like monsters when I stare at the cross, but regular people if I just look at the video normally.

  66. twh says:

    Works for me big time. I had to play it a 2nd time so I could look at the faces directly and make sure it wasn’t a trick.

  67. Does no-one here think the faces look distorted and weird when you look at them and not the cross in the centre?? Am I the only one? As for the statement that says the faces haven’t been altered, well, they must have taken photos of some really freaky looking people! Some of them have greenish skin!! Honestly…

  68. Gene says:

    That was horrifying.

  69. if you pause it at various faces, some of them look almost grotesque in their own right. Just because the two INITIAL faces are attractive doesn’t mean they are all attractive.
    I would like to know whether a series of attractively rated faces would produce the same results. These faces are extremely varied in facial angle (some looking slightly upwards, most straight on), subjects’ proximity to the camera, lighting and skin tone.
    If these were tidied up, would the same result occur?

    • Orly198D says:

      I would assume NO, to your “series of attractively rated faces would produce the same results” question, as in nature what makes one attractive is how our eyes/brain decipher the image, smoother more symmetrical features allow the brain to more easily perceive what is to be seen, simply put….easier a time the brain spends “putting the puzzle together” the more attractive the end result.

  70. phoeberaven says:

    Hard to believe the faces you see when you look directly are the same as the effects when you follow the instructions. The asymmetry must be due to a sequence of very different faces.

  71. SimonP says:

    For me it makes no difference if the video is running or paused. When I pause it the faces stay weird and ugly until I look directly at them. When I look back to the centre they get wierd again. It feels to me like it is something to do with the differences between the two faces somehow exagerating the other face.

  72. Anonymous says:

    If your eyes relax, it becomes a stereo pair.

  73. Jon D says:

    Just seemed like I was being stared at

  74. Bong Santos says:

    Had no effect on me but then I have an unusually large number of ugly women in my family.

  75. Orly198D says:

    BOOO !!

    Stop trying to be “that guy” “I don’t see it” “my brain works differently than all others”, ran a test in the office and SPOT-ON 10 for 10 with everyone. The IT guy put it best “they end up all looking like those UK kids in the meat grinding scene of Pink Floyds ‘The Wall’. So for and in this case (10 out of 10) you are the exceptions to a 100% success rate. There’s always got to be that one exception…

  76. I kept my eyes on the + and didn’t get to see any faces. That is I knew they were changing because of the movement but I didn’t get to see them. I will say the plus sign never change. O’ I kept the same too.

  77. Anonymous says:

    I watched and the faces became a blur with no resolution. Then what I got was the two faces becoming four with central pair moving into the center as if the eyes/brain was trying to resolve them as a single face.. Now my worry is that this is a crowd sourced search for visual ability to see past an illusion or that I just need stronger glasses….

  78. jus says:

    It works great for me. At the corners of my eyes I really see the faces morph into deformed aliens. Quite amazing.

  79. sailorsguide@hotmail.com says:

    I think they look equally weird if you look directly at the faces or the cross hairs.

  80. Nicole says:

    There is one particular face near the beginning of this video that makes me want to scream when I am staring at the cross. It is hugely, wildly distorted, with a terrifying mouth and forehead. Slowing it down and backing up and staring at the faces themselves I cannot figure out which one it is =/

  81. Sally says:

    I didn’t find the faces distorted. But noticed that the eyes in every image were located in pretty much the same position relative to the frame. So, it looked like the surrounding faces (of the eyes), when changing, were shrinking and expanding, receding and coming closer.

  82. Anonymous says:

    Woah. I watched it at least three times without it working, and reading different bits before i leant way back from the screen and suddenly it worked! That’s crazy! They look just like Picasso portraits! Uneven and cubistic. But also the eyes seem really threatening, it’s a bit scary.

  83. Marion says:

    I saw the ‘ugly’ faces straight away. I was able to look directly at them and then back at the cross and the effect returned instantly.

  84. It works – kept seeing what looked like pig and horse faces…freaky!

  85. Anonymous says:

    Staring at the cross, even when I stop the video, the faces can look weird

  86. […] iedereen schijnt overigens de illusie te kunnen zien. De skepticus Richard Wiseman klaagt op zijn website dat het hem niet […]

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