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Journal Article


Caputo GB. Perception 2010; 39(7): 1007-1008.


(Copyright © 2010, SAGE Publications)






I describe a visual illusion which occurs when an observer sees his/her image reflected in a mirror in a dimly lit room. This illusion can be easily experienced and replicated as the details of the setting (in particular the room illumination) are not critical. These observations were made in a quiet room dimly lit by a 25 W incandescent light. The lamp was placed on the floor behind the observer so that it was not visible either directly or in the mirror. A relatively large mirror (0.5 mT0.5 m) was placed about 0.4 m in front of the observer. Luminance of the reflected face image within the mirror was about 0.2 cd m(-2) and this level allowed detailed perception of fine face traits but attenuated colour perception. The illusion occurred even at higher levels of illumination of observer's face (from 0.2 to 1.6 cd m(-2)). The task of the observer was to gaze at his/her reflected face within the mirror. Usually, after less than a minute, the observer began to perceive the strange-face illusion.

Phenomenological descriptions were made by fifty naive individuals (age range 21 ^ 29 years; mean 23 years; SD 2.1 years). At the end of a 10 min session of mirror gazing, the participant was asked to write what he or she saw in the mirror. The descriptions differed greatly across individuals and included: (a) huge deformations of one's own face (reported by 66% of the fifty participants); (b) a parent's face with traits changed (18%), of whom 8% were still alive and 10% were deceased; (c) an unknown person (28%); (d) an archetypal face, such as that of an old woman, a child, or a portrait of an ancestor (28%); (e) an animal face such as that of a cat, pig, or lion (18%); (f) fantastical and monstrous beings (48%).

Language: en


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