Friday, July 8, 2011

Not tricks, Michael, illusions.

I have to share this amazing visual illusion with you.

Sean Murphy, an honours student in our lab, was playing around with some faces for an experiment. He aligned the faces at the eyes and then started flicking through them. He was shocked by the ugly faces staring back at him.

We called it the Flashed Face Distortion Effect. But we don’t yet know what causes it.

The effect might have something to do with relative encoding. That is, forcing people to encode each face in light of the others. By eye-aligning the faces, it becomes much easier to compare their shape and the relative location of their features, so the differences between them become more evident. And it’s most certainly related to work on adaptation, and the face distortion after effect specifically.

You can read more about it here and request a copy of the paper here. I hope you find the effect as jaw-dropping as I do!


Tangen, J. M., Murphy, S., & Thompson, M. B. (2011). Flashed face distortion effect: Grotesque faces from relative spaces. Perception advance online publication, doi:10.1068/p6968