Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cool Visual Illusions: Flashed Face Distortion Effect

As a highly social species, recognizing faces, and the expressions on them, is pretty important to us. It's so important, in fact, that our visual systems have areas primarily devoted to faces (e.g., the fusiform face area, shown in the picture on the left). As a result, we're pretty good at it. Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how we do it well, but that we do it well, and that our brains treat faces as special, is certain.

One thing researchers do know is that features like the nose, eyes, and mouth, and their configuration (their size, position, and relationship to each other) are important. A recently (and accidentally) discovered facial illusion makes the importance of features clear:

I recommend watching the video twice. The first time, follow the instructions at the beginning and keep your eyes on the cross in the center. Then watch it again, looking at one or the other of the faces directly. Freaky, right?
The discoverers of this illusion, Tangen et al. (you can read their paper here, or their short post on the illusion here), suggest that's what happening here is that, when the faces begin to scroll, we process the features of one face relative to the features of the next face, which causes both our perception of the features themselves and their configuration to become distorted. In a sense, our brains don't realize that the different features belong to different faces, so they create horribly distorted faces as a result.

Oh, and they also have a celebrity version:


  1. Weeeeeeeeeeird. Especially the celebrity one.

  2. If you need your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (no matter why you broke up) you have to watch this video
    right away...

    (VIDEO) Have your ex CRAWLING back to you...?