Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ghostly Gaze Illusion

Here's an optical illusion. This woman seems to be looking to our left when we see her up close, but she switches to looking to our right when we back up and look at the same face from across the room.

Here are two women with light gray eyes. They're looking more or less forward, right?

If you look at the same image files at a much smaller scale, the eyes of the two women seem to be looking at each other instead of looking forward. 

To create the faces, scientists rendered the eyes so that the sideways-looking eyes were rendered in the form of coarse, blurry detail, and the forward-looking eyes were rendered with fine detail. 

Back up enough and these ladies will all smile at you.

Our brains process fine and coarse detail in different ways, as was first made famous with the Albert Einstein / Marilyn Monroe hybrid image illusion. That's also why we need to back up from our portrait paintings while we're working on them. Otherwise we can unknowingly set up contradictory information streams at the level of fine and coarse detail. Every portrait painter has experienced eyes that seem to move or a smile that seems to change when the piece is viewed from farther back.

These gaze illusions have an eerie effect because it's so important to us humans to know which way another person is looking, and misreading gaze direction is a major issue for social interaction. That's also why it creeps us out to talk to someone up close who is wearing mirror shades.
The twin gaze illusion was created by Rob Jenkins of the University of Glasgow.
Hybrid images are a technique first published by Philippe Schyns & Aude Oliva in 1994.


David Yanchick said...

I have terrible eyesight, so it was fun to be able to remove my glasses and get the same result while moving away from the images only a few inches.

Tyler J said...

I found all these images slightly unsettling.

Particularly when first seeing the first black and white image at the top, it has a very ghostly quality and initially I didn't see her pupils at all so it had that zombie/ghostly quality to it.

dinodanthetrainman said...

Hello James

I know this is a little off topic but last it was on topic but the post was old and it got overlooked.

In a previous comment I asked

"are there any trains in Dinotopia? Shorly large dinosaurs could pull more than one wagon. I can see something like a steam tractor."

I am planning to order a copy of the new edition of first flight and was wondering if the original art could be of a truly Dinotopian train? Tho I would prefer it not to be strutter like?

James Gurney said...

David and Tyler. Agreed. I had the same reaction.

Daniel, no trains have shown up yet in Denison's journals, but then again, he hasn't seen everything.

David Teter said...

Unsettling yes. On the other hand if that is your intention, maybe ghost or zombie portraits, then this info is helpful.
I also agree with your statement "That's also why it creeps us out to talk to someone up close who is wearing mirror shades."
I always remove my sunglasses when first meeting people so they can see my eyes and be put at ease. Interestingly most people will unconsciously do the same.

Pharan said...

Ooh! I read about this in a book on visual perception. This is a result of the intermediary cells in the retina and the first receivers/processors of those signals in the visual cortex.

The biological machinery of our retinas and our vision isn't comprised of a plain array of "uniformly-sized pixel detectors" but a mix of (among many other things) a detection of fine and broad changes in value— ie, sharp and blurry edges but conscious perception tips toward the fine stuff, even if we still have an inkling of the broad.

Roberto said...

Of coarse the (not)smiling ladies is a great example of the 'Mona Lisa' effect.

@john Dy: what was the name of the book on visual perception? Thanx -RQ

Scott McD. said...

For a little bit on how this works, see this article I wrote on Dali's Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko). A professor of mine in grad skool used this painting to demonstrate the encoding of different information in different spatial frequencies.

Roberto said...

@Scott McD
Thanx 4 the link! Great blog. Jimi Gi's fans will enjoy your analysis of his 'Flights of Fancy.' Keep up the good work. I love this stuff! -RQ

James Gurney said...

@Scott McD, yes, I checked out your blog, and I love the analysis you gave to "Flights of Fancy." It made sense to me even though I probably wasn't conscious of a lot of the things you picked up on.