My pal and amazing psychologist Rob Jenkins has created this great illusion.  The animation below shows the same image getting smaller (you might need to click on the image to get it to animate).  However, at the start the women looks like she is looking to your left and at the end she appears to be looking to your right.

Do you know why it works?

25 comments

  1. when it’s small, the right side of the face is clearly in shadow, so this probably makes us think (somehow) that the eye-socket shadows on the right are the pupils, because we’ve already “got” the picture of a whole face with shadows to the right. or something.

  2. It works because the area of shadow
    on the opposite side of the eye to
    the pupil is actually darker than the
    Pupil itself, so as the image gets
    small and the detail becomes less
    distinct the shadow seems more
    obvious to read as the pupil,
    I’d imagine… ?

  3. Wow, that’s an intriguing one, Richard, thanks for that! So, do you have an answer as to why it works, or is it an open question? Funnily enough, I watched it four times before the illusion occured; but then it sort of kicked in and now it’s constant. I’m guessing that it works because of the deeper shadows to our right of the picture, drawing attention in that direction; but might it perhaps also be something as simple as the fact that you’ve already suggested how the illusion ought to appear? If nothing had been said, would the illusion work the same? It’s still a good one and quite fascinating, so, again, thanks for yet another good workout for the eyes and brain 😀

  4. Simple, the corners are more outstanding because the color is darker and more visible. The eyes are colored in a very light color. As the image goes darker, light colors gets harder to see, and rough colors such-as black.

    1. *Correction: As the image goes smaller, the lighter colors become harder to see, and the rough colors, such-as black, become easier to see.

  5. Close up we notice the details more – the eyes pointing to the left because they look more like eyes. They are more defined, we can see the pupil and look like eyes because they are coloured, not black.

    Far away, for the image to make sense we have less details, so we notice only the darker spots – ie the eyes pointing to the right.

  6. I think there is something uncomfortable about the initial appearance. The grey pupils look unnatural and off putting. When she’s finally looking left, I felt relieved. It feels Ike she’s supposed to be looking at way, as though the rest of her facial features are pulling that direction.

  7. As she pulls back, my initial acceptance of light coloured pupils makes her seem as if she looks straight ahead. So, she starts off to the left, shifts to centre, then to right. However, half the time I see her as cross-eyed-and-up when pulled back and I can flip between that and the looking to the right state.

  8. It doesnt appear to me that she looks either way at the end. And i think the reason for the change happens because the color of the eye is a light grey and at far it somehow is not that recognizeable.

  9. Part of the effect might be that as the image gets smaller the irises appear less rounded (because they have fewer pixels to be round with) and at the smallest size they are no more rounded than the shadows at the right corner of the eye. That lack of roundness probably frees our mind to interpret the iris as a shadow, although I confess I can’t tell whether the apparent lighting on the face should be causing shadowing in the left or right corner of the eye.

    Incidentally, when I watched it without blinking or glancing away the illusion only appeared occasionally, but it always worked if I blinked towards the end of the cycle.

  10. I’m not sure I would call that an illusion. It seems as if it is simply the lack of pixels. It’s clearly shown when you zoom in on the small version.

  11. if you stare intensely at the opposite side shes looking at (if she’s looking to the left you look to the right) she automatically looks the side your staring at. Weird and a little creepy…

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