A suitably ghostly head
of a woman gazing left
But what’s spookier is that when you view her close up, she looks to the left, yet when you view her from farther away, she looks to the right.
A suitably ghostly
tiny head of a woman
Here’s an animation.
First she looks to the left,
and then she looks to the right.
(And yes, it’s the exact same image.)
How does this work?
Researchers thought our brains figured out which way the eyes on a face are looking by observing the darkness in the eyes. If the darkness in the eyes is on the right, our brains assume – because of course that’s where the pupils are – that the eyes are looking to the right.
But in his illusion, Mr. Jenkins superimposed two images.
In one image, the darker part of the eye is actually on the right, but because our brain sees details of the eyeball – which are looking to the left – our brain assumes the ghostly head is looking to the left.
But those details fade away as the image gets farther away. Then our brain sees the darker part of the eyes on the right and assumes the ghostly head is looking to the right.
Another version, which won second prize at the 2008 Best Visual Illusion of the Year contest, is in color. (I prefer the ghostly black and white version, myself.)
Close up, the eyes look straight
ahead, but farther away…
…the eyes look away
from each other.
And again, it’s exactly the same image – you can get the same effect in both these optical illusions by looking at the larger images and simply walking away from your monitor.
– Watch an interactive demonstration of the "ghostly gaze", her, at Illusion Contest>>
– Cool Visual Illusions: The "Ghostly Gaze" Illusion, Mixing Memory, Science Blogs>>
– Ghostly Gaze Illusion by Rob Jenkins>>
– The Eyes Have It. Eye gaze is critically important to social primates such as humans. Maybe that is why illusions involving eyes are so compelling. Scientific American>>
– Last but not least, Perception Vol 36. (Opens PDF file)>>