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The Thatcher illusion


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This will change you forever. This was originally created by Peter Thompson, who is a professor at the University of York, England.

It's called the Margaret Thatcher illusion.

For those of you unfamiliar with the illusion, here's the gist. Have a look at this image of Margaret Thatcher.

Although something is obviously not quite right about the image, it doesn't look terribly out of the ordinary.


It's difficult to pinpoint the abnormality until the image is rotated right-side up....


The image is now grotesque. Why? It seems that we’re really bad at spotting facial elements which don’t meet our template. We don’t generally run into people with upside-down mouths and eyes in real life, so they don’t fit our schema and we don’t interpret what we see correctly.

You can now readily notice that although the relative configuration of the eyes and mouth has been maintained, each element has been flipped upside-down. The illusion suggests that we are relatively insensitive to the specific features of a face during recognition (otherwise, the upside-down face would look abnormal).

I think this is fascinating. What are your thoughts!? :)

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  • 1 year later...

I saw this on another website the other day and it reminded me I'd posted it here. So I dug the thread up! :D

It's strange how our brain works sometimes. Even though they're exactly the same picture, most people react pretty badly to the 2nd one for some reason.

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