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Old Woman Young Woman Illusion



Edwin Boring Old Woman Young Woman Ambiguous Illusion

The Fascinating Phenomenon of
the Old Woman Young Woman Illusion


The Old Woman Young Woman illusion is a perceptual phenomenon that has captivated audiences for generations. It's a classic optical illusion, which depending on your personal perspective, consists of the image of a young or elderly woman.


The History of the Old Woman Young Woman Illusion


The famous Old Woman Young Woman optical illusion first appeared on a German postcard in 1888. However, its enduring popularity was instigated by the British cartoonist William Ely Hill, who adapted the image and published the illusion under the title "My Wife and My Mother-in-Law." in Puck magazine in 1915.

This classic illusion continues to be a topic of interest, discussion and research and is often introduced in psychology classes as a way of teaching students about the science of perception. The legacy of which owes much to Professor Edwin Boring who, as mentioned in the image above, included the the Old Woman Young Woman illusion, in an article he wrote in the American Journal of Psychology in 1930.


The Science of the Old Woman Young Woman Illusion


Optical illusions play with our brain's perception of depth, size, and distance. They work by exploiting the brain's tendency to fill in gaps and complete patterns, leading to ambiguous interpretations of the information being received.

Illusions are also triggered by what is known as "top-down processing," where the brain uses prior knowledge and expectations to interpret sensory information. In the case of the old woman and young girl paradox, the brain uses prior knowledge of aging and facial features to determine the age of the face, leading to conflicting perceptions.

A research study into the Old Woman Young Woman illusion conducted at Flinders University in 2018, found that the perception of the young or elderly woman in the image was influenced by the age of the person viewing the illusion. Participants aged between 18 and 30 were far more likely to initially see the young woman, while participants aged over 30 were more likely to initially perceive the older woman. The study concluded that the phenomenon of own-age biases has a significant impact on the subconscious perception of faces.

Top-down processing refers to the constructive nature of perception. Namey, that our perception of things is influenced by what we already know. Check out this brilliant demonstration of auditory top-down processing by Professor Chris French, which explains why some people believe that they can hear Satanic messages in Rock music!



The Perception of the Old Woman Young Woman Illusion


The perception of the Old Woman Young Woman Illusion is an interesting topic for study because it provides insight into how our brains process information. When we look at the image, our brains automatically make assumptions based on the information that our eyes are receiving. These assumptions are influenced by our prior experiences and beliefs, and they shape the way that we perceive the image.

For example, if we've always associated the lines and shapes in the image with an elderly woman, our brains will continue to interpret the image in that way. However, if we're shown the image in a different context, such as being told to look at the image as a young woman, our brains will automatically adjust our interpretation of the image. This ability of our brains to quickly adjust our perceptions based on new information is a remarkable feature of human cognition.


The Importance of the Old Woman Young Woman Illusion


The Old Woman Young Woman Illusion is important for several reasons. Firstly, it highlights the power of perception and how our individual experiences and beliefs can shape the way that we perceive the world around us. Secondly, it provides insight into the complex nature of human cognition, and how our brains process information. Thirdly, it's a fascinating example of how our perceptions can be influenced by external factors, such as context and perspective. Plus, not only is it a fun and interesting thing to experience in and of itself, but also provides a fun way of exploring complex ideas and concepts.


A Final Word


In conclusion, then, the Old Woman Young Woman Illusion is a fascinating perceptual phenomenon that continues to captivate audiences and researchers alike. It provides valuable insights into the science of perception and the complexities of human cognition. Whether you're a student, researcher, or simply someone who loves optical illusions, the Old Woman Young Woman illusion is sure to capture your imagination.

Who did you see first?




Optical Illusions


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Want to learn more about psychology of optical illusions and see some brilliant optical illusion examples? There is a page dedicated to the subject here on the All About Psychology website, which you can access via the following link.


Optical Illusions


Really hope you enjoyed reading about the Old Woman Young Woman Illusion. Want to read more great psychology articles?


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