More pretty, ugly people

On Monday I posted a Youtube clip revealing a weird perception phenomenon in which even the prettiest girl seems to appear, fleetingly, as if she were an ogre or a troll. Take a look at the ugly pretty girl phenomenon here. I’m never satisfied to simply echo what others have said, so contacted co-discoverer of the effect Jason Tangen and asked him about whether the effect works for males and females and whether or not it might somehow be linked to the origin of monster myths and alien imagery…

“Indeed, the effect works for male and female faces,” he told Sciencebase. Indeed, apparently it is even more weird: “It seems to be a low level perceptual phenomenon, and I doubt it’s unique to faces,” he added. The monstrous faces idea had also occurred to Tangen and his colleagues. “We’ve also considered the possibility that this sort of effect may be related to the origin of mythical stories,” he says, and pointed me to another paper in the Journal Perception by Giovanni Caputo of the University of Urbino in Italy that might lend additional support along with his study to such a hypothesis. In that paper: “Strange-face-in-the-mirror illusion”, Caputo describes an illusion that happens when you catch site of your own reflection in a dimly lit room.

Caputo tested numerous volunteers who reported seeing huge deformations of their own faces (66% of 50 participants), seeing a parent’s face with traits changed (18%; 8% were still alive and 10% were deceased), an unknown person (28%), an old person’s face, a child, or a portrait of an ancestor (28%), an animal face such as that of a cat, pig, or lion (18%), a fantastical or monstrous face (48%).

There is definitely something strange going on. These are not actual apparitions, they’re distortions of perception akin to that experienced by those of you watching the ugly-pretty video. I will report back as new clues emerge…

Research Blogging IconCaputo, G. (2010). Strange-face-in-the-mirror illusion Perception, 39 (7), 1007-1008 DOI: 10.1068/p6466

Author: bob投注平台

Award-winning freelance science writer, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rockstar.