You’re being tested today. Unlike most of the other puzzles we’ve shared with you, this one is over 100 years old and can provide insight into your brain.
Take a look at this video with the black and white drawing of two animals. What do you see? A duck? A rabbit? Both? This viral illusion has been making the rounds since this version first hit the public’s eyes in 1899, and there’s more than meets the eye.
What you see depends on how your brain works, according to psychologist Joseph Jastrow. His experiment was meant to illustrate perception, expectations, and what we already know. Rather than calling this an illusion, psychologists refer to drawings like these as “ambiguous figures”.
Sometimes people only see one thing in an image until it is pointed out that there is another, or that there are two. The ability to grasp both figures or to “reverse” what you see can show how your brain functions cognitively.
Jastrow’s image was revisited in a recent study on perception. Most people needed to be prompted to see both a duck and a rabbit by being asked if they saw a duck eating a rabbit. Do you see it now?
When neuroscientist Kyle Mathewson was doing doctoral work with grad students at the Beckman Institute in Illinois, they conducted an experiment with the duck-rabbit image, first asking participants to identify what they saw in either-or fashion: duck or rabbit. They were then told to picture a duck eating the rabbit, and were surprised they could not recognize it earlier.
Dr. Mathewson believes this has more to do with top-down perception processing rather than vision:
“We’re allowing people to use higher level processes in a better way, in a new way. So it’s not that their eyes aren’t letting them see, or that your visual system doesn’t let you see a duck beside a rabbit, but that everything you thought about ducks and rabbits before didn’t let you see the duck and the rabbit. So we’re giving you a new lens to look at the figures.”
For those of you who didn’t need the prompt to see both animals at the same time, you are probably more creative than others. A separate study published in the British Journal of Psychology asked participants to find unique uses for a number of everyday objects by listing them in under 2 minutes.
An example was to come up with multiple ways to use a chair – sitting, standing, burning it for warmth, etc. Participants were then shown the duck-rabbit image and asked what they saw.
While most saw one animal over the other, those who could who flip between both quickly were also found to have longer lists for their “everyday object” exercise.
Psychologists concluded that these folks are more creative in terms of their thinking. So, where do you stand with this drawing? Perception is key with this one! See for yourself with this video.
Are you familiar with this image or other ambiguous figures? Did you have trouble flipping between both animals?