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What You See In This Optical Illusion Totally Depends On Your Age

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What You See In This Optical Illusion Totally Depends On Your Age

Optical illusions can often leave us scratching our heads for a while, baffling our minds through colour, pattern, the placement of objects and more.

Some can be hilariously rude, others can be downright confusing, while some can even apparently help provide clues about who we are - including an image that produces two different figures to different people.

When you look at the picture, what do you see? Are you looking into the eye of an old hag? Or do you see a young woman staring out into the distance?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It's one of the world's most famous optical illusions, dividing our Facebook feeds time and again, and researchers believe that whatever you see completely depends on your age.

A 2018 study found that older people will notice the older woman first, while younger people will see the younger figure.

The research, published by two psychology professors at Flinders University, Australia, included 393 participants from the ages of 18 to 68, with an average age of 32.

The participants were shown the 'My Wife or My Mother-in-Law' image for half a second before being asked to reveal the gender and age of the figure they spotted first.


Most of the participants said they saw the younger woman's figure first.

The aim of the study was to find out if 'own-age biases affect the initial interpretation of an image at a subconscious level'.

Professor Mike Nicholls, one of the researchers, said: "What we found was that young people tended to see the young lady in the image, whereas with older people they tended to see the old lady."

Credit: Flinders University/Twitter
Credit: Flinders University/Twitter

If you're wondering where the two images are, the older woman's nose is actually the younger woman's chin. So if you were to be looking at the younger figure, you'd be staring at her side profile rather than her face. Where the older lady is hooded, the younger lady wears a fancy hat.

But what does this have to do with our age?

"Everyone has their own in-groups and out-groups," Nicholls continued.

"Young people tend to have an in-group which focuses on other young people and old people tend to have a group focusing on older people. We think this subconscious bias is what you would see in one of the images."


"So even people who might think that they are being balanced or fair about a person's age - what we are showing is it seems to be subconscious."

When the researchers separated the participants into the oldest 10 percent and the youngest 10 percent, they found the majority of the older set did indeed see the older woman first, with the younger group spotting the younger woman.

Seems like a pretty sensible conclusion to me, although I still can't quite understand why it took me more than 15 minutes to figure out where the younger lady was.

What image do you see when you look at the picture?


Words: Megan Walsh

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Topics: Optical Illusion, World News, News

Jess Hardiman
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