Mastering the optical illusion - spinning dancer

Understanding why an optical illusion works can teach us some aspect of vision. Beating the illusion, however, can be more compelling. The spinning dancer by Nobuyuki Kayahara is one of my favorites. It relies upon incomplete movement and depth cues, forcing your brain to make a choice. Because the light does not illuminate the body in ways to suggest direction of the spin, the image is ambiguous. You might see her spinning in one direction and then suddenly flip. Which way do you see her spinning? If you stay with it for a bit, do you see her flip? Can you make her flip at will? Play with it a bit before moving on to the hints.

Using your capacity to understand a human body in movement through your embodied experience of it and through mirror neurons, try the following:

  1. Tilt your head opposite the direction you see the dancer’s head. Wait a few moments. Did if flip? If not…

  2. Notice her head is slightly tilted back. Keep your head in the same position and tilt your head slight backward. Flip yet? If not…

  3. Keep your head position and add an extended arm, mimicking the direction opposite to what you see.

Now play around until you can flip back and forth at will. Have fun, please share, and leave your comments below.