Margaret Thatcher Illusion

Ok, look at the image below. You will notice some little differences, but they hardly trigger your brain to notice them… but wait! If we flip this same image, you will see the differences are anything, but “unnoticable”! Open this article to see the second picture. This has something to do with brain recognizing the faces… am not sure how this illusion works, but it works!

59 Replies to “Margaret Thatcher Illusion”

  1. It’s got to do with the white/black balances, if you look at the normal picture, you’ll notice it’s brighter than the messed up one. The creator enhanced both the while balance and the black balance after messing with the picture to show almost a stair effect, almost like looking at stairs from a birds eye view (On the upside down view) while the second view would be like staring at stairs from the front. First time ever writing in here also

  2. This is old.

    Anyway, this is done wrong. It’s way too easy to notice in the upside-down picture that the mouth and eyes have been modified because of the brightness/contrast differences with the edges. ‘Hardly trigger your brain to notice them’… I disagree. The effect is much stronger when you really don’t notice anything wrong with the upside-down image.

  3. This difference has to do with facial recognition. When seening a face upside-down, the brain has a harder time recognizing the face as a whole, and sees it rather as a sum of its parts. Therefore, seeing the eyes and mouth right-side-up looks actually more familiar. But once the image is arighted, the upside-down eyes and mouth seem completely out of place on an otherwise recognizable face. The mind wants to interpret the face the way its viewed, and dislikes the “angry frankenstein” mouth and zombie-like eyes.

  4. I think I saw this one b4, but it’s a great one.
    It’s all about us getting used to see/interpret and remember people faces in up-standing position, everything else screw up our silly minds ;)


  5. Its proably got something to do with the eyes and mouth. Those have been inverted so in the upside-down image you see them right side up. Which would mean that out brain uses the shape of the eyes and mouth for recognition more than any other part of the face.

  6. I think this works because the eyes and mouth are turned upside-down in the altered picture. When you view that picture upside-down, it doesn’t look quite right, but because the eyes and mouth appear to be right-side-up it isn’t as noticible.

  7. Wow… I saw a few slight differences until I looked at it flipped… whoa… makes her look like the phantom of the opera in the modified one… but then again even the unmodified one is pretty scary :-)

  8. I’ve seen things like this before. If you notice, the eyes and mouth in the right pane of the first picture are the proper facial features of Marg, inserted into a picture of her face, upside down. We can recognize the eyes and mouth being right side up, so the brain doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it. However, in the right pane of the second picture, the eyes and mouth (which should be right-side up) are now upside down, so our brain freaks out.

  9. “safe in the permanent gaze of a gold glass eye
    with their favourite toys
    they’ll be good girls and boys
    in the fletcher memorial home for colonial
    wasters of life and limb”

    Pink Floyd = Fletcher Memorial Home

  10. My guess? When you look at the picture upside down, your brain says ‘wrong!’ to both of them. Faces aren’t supposed to be upside down. But the altered face has right-side-up eyes and mouth. So the brain is a little confused and thinks, ‘okay, the second one doesn’t look right, but the eyes and mouth are the right way around’.

    Whereas when you look at them right side up, your brain looks at the first one and says, “Right.” and then looks at the second one and says, “OH MY GOD THAT ONE IS SO WRONG!”

  11. Inspection of the upside-down Maggies revealed that the eyes and mouth had remained rightside-up in the altered photo.
    However, the stunning effect of the different rightside-up expressions was not at all evident in the upside-down Maggies.
    Which raises a question:
    Is “rightside-up only” human facial recognition innate, learned, or both?

  12. This reminds me of the excercises in Betty Edwards’s great book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. You do drawings of pictures upside down because it seems to help you focus on the details rather than getting lost in the whole picture.

  13. I get it, the eyes and mouth are in the same position as they would be normally, which is prolly why our brains register it as normal.

  14. its propably because of that part in brain that recognise faces, it propably has hard ones when face is upside down or something like that.

  15. Here’s my take on what’s happening.

    In the original picture, the brain is recognising each feature of the face – the eyes, the nose and the lips as individual entities. If you observe carefully, the eyes and the lips in the picture on the top right are of the same shape as one would view in the bottom left image. This allows the brain to be fooled into believing that everything with this face is all right. In the top-left image, the brain is recognising the entire face as a single entity, albeit inverted.

    When you flip the images over, the bottom left image is perfectly OK.. but the discrepancies start showing up in the bottom right image, as the shape of the individual entities that constitute the face are still inverted.

  16. Even more interesting:
    load it in windows picture and FAX viewer, then turn it round and round and watch the jpg quality worsen and worsen each rotation.
    ahhh microsoft.

  17. I have been looking for this picture for years! It was in a psychology book that I read when I was young.

    Chiranth’s explanation is right on target with that book’s interpretation. I use this example in class with other celebrities (Geri Halliwell and Ricky Martin), and I have found that the eyes are not nearly as important as the mouth. You can create similar illusions just by turning the mouth upside down.

    There is wisdom to the saying “a frown is just a smile upside-down”. When we see the shape of a smile (an upright curving mouth) we are inclined to think everything is okay, rather than spend time interpreting the upside down image.

    That’s why smily people are awesome.

  18. omg, pls, PPL!
    this has nothing to do with shadows or contrast or whatsoever!
    LOL at dumb comments abt making a “stairs-look-alike” effect, etc.
    It’s simply a replicate of the first picture with the mouth and eyes inverted upside-down!
    Because the eyes and mouth appear to be upright, our eyes seems to perceive nothing wrong with the picture.
    However, when the whole picture is inverted, we can clearly see the eyes and mouth looking awkwardly out of place.
    Anyway, this is not a spot the difference game; it’s about why we failed to notice the awkward features initially.
    stop it about using photoshop! LOL. dumb.

  19. Professional photographers have been using tricks like this for years. Take a good look at studio work for fashion models next time you have a chance. you’ll find that in a lot of closeups only the eyes and mouth are sharp and the rest of the face is very soft. Was her skin that perfect?…no, her skin is out of focus with her eyes and mouth photophopped in from a different picture. Your brain happily melds the two together into a face. Don’t know why but the brain seems to key off just a couple of facial features.

  20. They did this with the Mona Lisa once. Her eyes and smile were upside down and to me, it looked normal. I flipped it the right way and it was similar to the one of that lady.

  21. I agree with Allison (comment 3). Facial recognition begins with simple patterns that are combined in a known configuration to make a recogniseable face. I.E. eyes, nose, mouth, hair patterns. The reason the lower image looks freakier is that there are more recogniseable patterns in the correct configuration than in the upper picture. Therefore the unexpected patterns are more noticeable. This only works with a reference picture though (hence the picture on the left). Without a reference picture, the face in the lower right would not appear as grotesque. FF

  22. It is actually to do with the way we process faces… Thompson said that we process faces holistically so we do not concentrate any any individual components of a face so when we see the screwed up version it seems normal(ish) because our eyes cannot distinguish between the individual components… I am studying Psychology and facial recognition… sorry to be a killjoy :-)

  23. I find it quite distressing the number of people responding to this article by insulting a fellow human being. First of all, the article has nothing to do with Mrs. Thatcher. It is simply her picture that has been used. Secondly, Mrs. Thatcher is a person just like the rest of us. Even though she is a public figure, she still has feelings like anyone else. How would you feel if this were a picture of you, and you were subjected to the kind of insults posted here? If you had nothing to say about the illusion itself, why post at all? Each of you that made a snide comment about this person should examine your own thought processes. Obviously your parents did not have time or know how to raise a child properly.

  24. its just cutting and re-pasting of the features. we view it as normal when it is upside down but strange when it is right side up. look at the curve of the eyes in the pics, the curve of the mouth. if you have a lap top flip the entire thing upside down and view them rotated, same effect due to cut/paste.

  25. We are unused to seeing faces upside down, so anomalies are normalised by our brain. When we see the same image rightside up, the wrong features become more obvious. Amazing what our neurons do 4 us!

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