Weird illusion causes faces to look very distorted

[Video Link] Follow the instructions on this video and prepare to be freaked out.

(Via Doobybrain)


  1. Cool, okay, so unfocusing your eyes makes your brain try to see both faces as a corresponding halves of a stereo image. Consequently it tries to force its representation of those features towards each other, making both of them tend to some horrific average of these two. Exercise for the reader: construct the intermediate image by morphing the two celebs together, and see if it matches what you see in your peripheral vision via this flash-test.

    1.  No, this is not the illusion. You don’t have to unfocus your eyes, it works with one eye closed, it works with one of the pair of images covered… Basically everything you said is wrong.

      1.  Yeah, I realized this morning that I was probably wrong when someone pointed out it worked with one eye. Also, it seems to work if you only have one face (i.e. if you cover one of them up), so the effect comes mostly from not looking directly at them. I also realized that these are not exactly normal pictures of these people – they are all a little odd. So maybe that, + lack of detail + the difference between successive images and your brain playing catch-up (adjusting to seeing a certain part of your visual field as a component of the new face rather than the old one) could produce the effect? In that case, the average between R and R-1 would look closer to your distorted perception than the average between R and L.

  2. This reminds me of a meditation technique I tried where I stared into the eyes of my own reflection in dim light.  After a short while, I developed tunnel vision and my face seemed to rapidly change and settled on something that looked almost Neanderthal.

  3. Crossing my eye’s doesn’t work as I can’t see this or magic eye images or any “stereo images.” I’d rather be entertained by Conan’s “If they made it” segments. 

    Also signing into comment makes me want to cry. 

    1.  No, you just look at the cross, and in your unfocused vision the faces distort into caricatures of the previous ones.

    2. NB: you have to play the video. I figured it was a “magic eye”-like thing and that it should work with the static screenshot above, but it didn’t.

  4. I don’t understand at all. I see the cross, and slightly blurry/less clear versions of each face on either side. I notice the eyes more than I do normally, and the forehead/bone structure seems exaggerated. I wouldn’t call it ugly, just less clear. But what would I expect from not looking directly at either image?

    1. It might not work for everybody, since we are all wired a bit differently. For me, the effect is so pronounced that it scares me.

  5. That was like an acid flashback, or perhaps similar to the hallucinogenic visions Hunter S. Thompson experienced in Vegas.

  6. I, for one, can tell you with absolute certainty that nothing on YouTube — even with its gang of freaks — compares with existential desperation caused by a Vegas mini-bar.


    “By aligning the faces at the eyes and presenting them quickly, it becomes much easier to compare them, so the differences between the faces are more extreme. If someone has a large jaw, it looks almost ogre-like. If they have an especially large forehead, then it looks particularly bulbous.”

  8.  If I had children, I would show them this, and then explain how it reveals what people look like in real life, when you’re not actually looking at them.  While it’s a good thing that I don’t have kids, there’s a part of me that fears that this might actually be true.

    1. Age-related vision problems may have something to do with it. When I looked at the cross, I couldn’t see any faces, because I wasn’t looking at them! Presbyopia is a pain sometimes.

      1.  When I first read that, I saw “Presbyterian is a pain sometimes.” The resulting “brain ‘Wha?'” was amusing, so I wanted to thank you for the (unintentional) giggle.

      2. Presbyopia is a pain sometimes.

        I’ve come to appreciate the fact that the number of wrinkles I’ve developed is inversely proportional to my ability to see them.

  9. I hate these things, and those hidden image things, never work for me.  Some people are easily amused.

    1. Perhaps if two people rob a bank together, and hold a small “+” between them, and the note says, “STARE AT THE PLUS NOT AT ME!  AND GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY!”

  10. Staring at the black strip in the middle made the illusion work for me, but … now I’m worried that I didn’t see a cross at all!

  11. Some of the images were slightly edited. To work effectively, they must line up perfectly, and so some must have been edited, such as Robin Williams

  12. I’m pretty sure quite many of those faces have been altered.

    Oh… like photoshopped? Never mind.

  13. This was amazing!

    I misunderstood the intention and thought it really was displaying distorted images to the right and left. I figured at the end the original image would come back and when I looked, it would be distorted somehow. I was confused when it just ended without getting back to the original image.

    I replayed the video and couldn’t believe they were just pretty normal pics all along.

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