Look closely at these faces: do you…
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Look closely at these faces: do you see a man and a woman?

April 08, 2022 • By Mark Bennett

Appearances can be deceiving and this is well known. And what can perfectly illustrate this concept if not an optical illusion? An optical illusion manages to deceive our eye, or rather, our brain, making it imagine the presence of something that does not exist or providing a completely distorted image of something. In this regard, an example that has become popular is the gender illusion created by Harvard professor and psychologist, Richard Russell. In this famous image you will appear to see two distinct human faces - that of a man and of a woman: so what is going on here?

Look carefully at the image below:

In this optical illusion, specially created by Russell to analyse its effects, there appear to be two very distinct human faces. To tell the truth, this is not the case: it is the same face which has been duplicated, but with some differences injected, thanks to some make-up and lighting effects. The faces are perceived as that of a man and a woman, despite the fact that they are the same identical face with androgynous features. The main effect of the ambiguity is achieved in the image thanks to an increase or decrease in contrast: here is the illusion revealed.

By carefully observing the two photos it is clearly visible how the photo on the right, which is the one in which we seem to see the face of a man, has been darkened by adding contrasts; while the one on the left is much lighter and has other effects added through the use of light and make-up - this one is perceived as being a woman.

The play of light used is called "simultaneous contrast", which is the phenomenon that occurs when two shades of colors are so close to each other that they influence each other, even changing our perception of the colors.

Optical illusions are always a great way to test yourself: what did your eye see as soon as you looked at the image of these two faces? Write to us in the comments and let us know!


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