ChittahChattah Quickies

The “Flashed Face Effect” Makes Normal People Look Monstrous – – This demonstration shows pretty dramatically that direct focus creates dramatic distortions in our perceptions of peripheral objects. Specifically here, faces. For me, the faces turned into Second Life-type avatars. The video here proves this optic effect beyond a doubt; the psychological implications are even more interesting. This effect is why it is so important for us to go back to the recordings or transcripts of our interviews to reshift that focus. In the interview itself we are so fully focused on our unfamiliar surroundings and the project objectives and questions, and on responding to body-language, and on all the crazy things that can happen in someone’s home like crazed husbands and bugs, that a lot of interesting stuff in the periphery can easily be lost or misunderstood.

If you’re like most people, you’ll notice that the women you thought had hideous deformities while looking at the center of the screen are actually completely normal looking. Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia are calling this the “flashed face effect.” How it works is that your brain focuses in on the main differences in each juxtaposition, thereby augmenting that difference to grotesque proportions. “If someone has a large jaw, it looks almost ogre-like,” write the scientists. “If they have an especially large forehead, then it looks particularly bulbous.” The researchers say they don’t yet know why the effect occurs, but they’re attempting to find out now. In the meantime, hard as it may be, remember not to always trust your brain and eyes.

Speaking of crazed husbands and bugs, and surprises in the field, we’ve written of them before: What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting It.


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