Left brain, right brain and optical illusions

I have a question for you. What do you think, is this girl spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

If you think it is spinning only one way and not the other, look away and then look at it again. Has it changed since you had first laid eyes on it? Can you change the way you see it at will? 🙂 That’s the beauty of this illusion.

The Spinning Dancer, also known as the silhouette illusion, is a kinetic, bistable optical illusion resembling a pirouetting female dancer. The illusion, created by web designer Nobuyuki Kayahara, (his website) involves the apparent direction of motion of the figure.

There are studies that report that how you see the girl spinning determines which part of your brain you think from. If you see this moving clockwise, you use your right brain. If you see in counterclockwise, you are using your left brain. Why is it important? According to this report in The Sunday Times, the left brain and the right brain control different aspects of the way you think.

Left brain function:
uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies

Right brain functions:
uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

When I read this, I was confused as to how to categorize myself. Because I see it happening both ways, and can control it as well! Don’t I think from any side at all? (That would surely explain several things!)
I wonder if all this brain hemisphere analysis is true. In my opinion, it is merely an optical illusion. How can an optical illusion determine how your brain thinks? May be it does… may be it doesn’t. Frankly, I do not find any significant differences in the above report of the left brain and right brain. I thought the hemispheres of the brain decide is handedness and language function. May be a neurological explanation can back up all this.
That’s when I came across this post in a blog dedicated to Neuroscience. According to Steven Novella, the author of the post, it’s just an illusion! And it has nothing to do with hemispherical dominance of either side of the brain.

[…] This news article, like many others, ignores the true source of this optical illusion and instead claims it is a quick test to see if you use more of your right brain or left brain. This is utter nonsense, but the “right-brain/left brain” thing is in the public consciousness and won’t be going away anytime soon. Sure, we have two hemispheres that operate fine independently and have different abilities, but they are massively interconnected and work together as a seamless whole (providing you have never had surgery to cut your corpus callosum).
We also do have hemispheric dominance, but that determines mostly your handedness and the probability of language being on the right or the left. There is also often asymmetry for memory, with some being right or left hemisphere dominant. But none of this means that your personality or abilities are more right brain or left brain. That much is nonsense.
Further, how your visual cortex constructs this optical illusion says nothing about your hemispheric dominance, and is absolutely not a quick personality profile. […]

Aside, I found this piece astounding. It replaces my all time favorite illusion: the Lilac Chaser.

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12 Responses to “Left brain, right brain and optical illusions”
  1. theantisensestrand says:

    Assumption that its a just a left-right thing is as much of an assumption as that the brain is seamless whole! You have pockets of loosely and densely connected areas, so it is not seamless on that level…I doubt as to how much this perception difference may have difference in personality because lot of these things are determined by environment too….but it being an optical illusion does not take away the fact that different human brain are seeing this illusion in a different manner…and its true that some people can never see it other way round, howsoever hard they may try!

  2. Kokonad says:

    I see your point! 🙂

  3. Deepika says:

    I agree with antisense strand too. I tried and tried to make myself see her spin clockwise, it just didn’t happen. And then I stared hard and realized she changes her direction of spin right in front of me. I can see it happening!

  4. Nikhil says:

    I think this illusion is caused because a 3D object is shown in 2D, just like projecting its shadow on a screen – causing lack of information about the depth. This is more so when the shadow is monochromatic, like here. I explain a way to control what you perceive in the next post.

  5. Nikhil says:

    Concentrate hard locally on the ankle of pivot foot. Since, at that point there is little overlap of the other foot, a little staring will help you “set” the sense of rotation.
    >>By staring at the small local area about the ankle, you are overcoming the reference set by the overall body motion (particularly re-enforced by the hands) simply by ignoring the body…
    To revert back the sense of rotation, stop concentrating! 😉 🙂

  6. Kokonad says:

    Thanks for your input. You certainly have put a lot of effort in your reply. I too use the ankle to swap directions – it provides the “least area” for illusion.
    This is my favorite group when it comes to that! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyAKx6wPo0s

  7. rads says:

    Hmm no matter how much I tried I could only see it moving clockwise..this means I only got right brain!!! OMIGOSH! what happened to my left????

  8. Kokonad says:

    Ha ha ha! Don’t worry Radhika, it means nothing. 😛 Take your look away and try again – may be you will find a left side too!

  9. Dharini says:

    Yeah, stupefying really! I could control it, and decide if I wanted to see clockwise or anticlockwise!
    Now, I m wondering if that is good or bad! :O
    Dharini´s latest post – And …

  10. Kokonad says:

    #Dharini: Oh that is definitely good! Looks like you are the ‘complete package’ 😛

  11. Cleeb says:

    I think this indicates more that either your left side or right side of your brain is controlling this aspect of your mentality, (visual, cognetive, and spacial.) I dont think this is an easy test though to work out your personality as a whole and i dont think it proves dominance because some parts of your left hemisphere are more dominant than some parts of your right hemisphere and vise versa, but the two hemispheres of your brain are not completely intergrated (as any male can tell you,being that men generaly focus with one side more at a time), as the corpus callosum is a bridge that sits just above the limbic system (mamalian part of the brain (dead centre, but quite far up) dominance in this case does not mean that one side only is controlling your body, mentality and personality, but mainly one side.

  12. Cleeb says:

    by the way im male and i only see it turn clockwise, unless looking away and using periphrial vision

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