Jenkins: Ghostly Gaze

2008 Second prize
Rob Jenkins

University of Glasgow, UK
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How do we tell where other people are looking? Conventional wisdom says the dark parts of their eyes give it away. But the Ghostly Gaze illusion reveals a more subtle process.
From a distance, the sisters seem to stare at each other, but as you bring them closer to you with the slider, they turn their eyes to you! This is not a computer trick – to convince yourself set the slider to ‘close’ and walk away from your computer screen while looking at the image: notice that when you are sitting in front of the monitor the sisters are looking at you, but when you are about 3-4 meters away they look at each other!
The illusion is based on the hybrid image technique, developed by Schyns and Oliva. Gaze direction is an extremely important social cue. The Ghostly Gaze illusion shows that details such as the outline of the iris can override larger patches of darkness.

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Rolling Eyes on a Hollow Mask

2008 Third prize
Thomas Papathomas

Rutgers University, USA
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The well-known hollow-mask illusion: hollow masks appear as normal faces that “follow” viewers who move in front of them. Also, when a hollow mask rotates on a turntable, it appears to turn opposite to the actual direction of the turntable.
An interesting variant: If we add 3-D objects to the mask (e.g., a cigarette) or attach 3-D eyeballs on the whites of the eyes, what will the percept be when we turn the mask? Answer: The result is a compelling illusion in its own right; these objects appear to rotate in the opposite direction to that of the mask.

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Yang’s Iris Illusion

Jisien Yang and Adrian Schwaninger

U. of Zurich, Switzerland; National Chung-Cheng U., Taiwan and Max Planck I., Germany
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Circumfluous contours can elicit a length-contrast illusion. Mirror-imaged faces are arranged with the four irises absolutely equidistant. The distance between the middle two irises is perceived as shorter than the distances between the left two or right two irises in an Asian face, whereas it is perceived as longer in a Caucasian face. This illusion remains when the irises are presented together with line drawings of the eye shape, but it disappears when only the isolated irises are presented. The illusion is independent of orientation (no inversion effect) and viewer”s race (no race effect).

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