"The Message of Dolphins"
So how long did it take you to see the dolphins in the picture above? What do you mean you still can't see them!
This brilliant colored pencil drawing by Swiss artist Sandro Del-Prete was featured in the book Masters of Deception: Escher, Dalí & the Artists of Optical Illusion, along with this great description.
This image incorporates a figure/ground perceptual reversal, and is an excellent example of one's viewpoint being primed by experience. If you are young and innocent, and have not been "ruined" yet, you will likely perceive a group of - yes - dolphins. Adults on the other hand, will probably see a couple in a suggestive embrace. If you are having trouble perceiving the dolphins, just reverse figure and ground: What normally constitutes the ground (dark areas), becomes a group of small dolphins (the figures).
At a public exhibition that the author held at the University of Cambridge, it was tremendous fun to watch the adults and the very young children argue about the meaning of this image. Adults would exclaim to their children "What dolphins" This image was also displayed in an illusion exhibit gallery at the Museum of Science in Boston. When asked if there was any controversy about displaying this image, the curators replied that once a group of nuns had objected, but were quickly silenced when told that one's perception is based upon past experience.
Want more examples of your brain violating your expectation of what an image represents? Of course you do! Check out the 5 pictures below that Sigmund Freud would have loved. Remember all the pictures below are perfectly innocent - so with that in mind, or should that be filthy mind! What Do You See?
I came across most of these images over at Professor Richard Wiseman's excellent blog, so a big thanks to him and to whoever originally posted the pictures online.
Rings of seahorses that seem to rotate on the page. Butterflies that transform right before your eyes into two warriors with their horses. A mosaic portrait of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau made from seashells. These dazzling and often playful artistic creations manipulate perspective so cleverly that they simply outwit our brains: we can’t just take a quick glance and turn away. They compel us to look once, twice, and over and over again, as we try to figure out exactly how the delightful trickery manages to fool our perceptions so completely. Of course, first and foremost, every piece is beautiful on the surface, but each one offers us so much more.
From Escher’s famous and elaborate “Waterfall” to Shigeo Fukuda’s “Mary Poppins,” where a heap of bottles, glasses, shakers, and openers somehow turn into the image of a Belle Epoque woman when the spotlight hits them, these works of genius will provide endless enjoyment. You can buy this thoroughly engaging book on Amazon via the following link.
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Excellent article on mental toughness by Peter Clough Professor of Psychology, University of Huddersfield.