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Sebastian Scholl

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The Thatcher Effect

As much as we care to think that we are free thinkers, or thoughts are often bound by predictable processes.  More specifically, over our lives we develop our own “ways” of thinking so that we can auto pilot thought.  As a bland and oversimplified example, look at the following:

37 x 91

Your first thoughts after looking at the above were most likely “math/multiplication”, instead of solving the problem.  Naturally, you’re probably saying that you must identify a problem before solving one.  True, but the identification is a process you engaged in automatically.  Also, you automatically assumed it was a math problem.  What if the example above was dimensions?  The point I’m pushing at is that we try to dedicate as little thought as possible to identifying things, and often fall back on systematic identification to help do so. 
The reason behind trying to explain to you these ways of thinking is to help you understand the phenomenon called the Thatcher Effect; a crazy little trick I came across last week.  What the Thatcher Effect demonstrates is that we have a specific psychological process involved in perceiving human faces.  Additionally, this process is specifically tuned to faces that are upright (people standing right side up).  When recognizing a human face, we identify the mouth, eyes and nose; that is whether the face is right side up or upside down…..
This picture is the EXACT SAME PICTURE as the picture above, just flipped right side up.  Both the eyes and the mouth in this image have been photo-shopped upside down in orientation to the face…disturbing looking.  However, when the image is flipped upside down, then you see both the eyes and mouth in their “perceived” orientation, and the face looks normal.  The only people that this effect doesn’t work on are those who have some form of prosopagnosia; a disorder where face processing is impaired (it usually is acquired after brain injury or illness).  
Now simply looking at the pictures of this effect weren’t good enough for me…I needed to see if I could it.  This may be the strangest picture I’ve ever posted of myself, however I think it is a very interesting trick.  If you’re reading this blog post on a laptop, flip your computer upside down and witness my picture literally transform!


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