For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Hollow-Face illusion.

Hollow-Face illusion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hollow-face illusion
Hollow-face illusion
3D model of a hollow face

The Hollow-Face illusion (also known as Hollow-Mask illusion) is an optical illusion in which the perception of a concave mask of a face appears as a normal convex face.

While a convex face will appear to look in a single direction, and the gaze of a flat face, such as the Lord Kitchener Wants You poster, can appear to track a moving viewer, a hollow face can appear to move its eyes faster than the viewer: looking forward when the viewer is directly ahead, but looking at an extreme angle when the viewer is only at a moderate angle.

According to Richard Gregory, "The strong visual bias of favouring seeing a hollow mask as a normal convex face is evidence for the power of top-down knowledge for vision".[1] This bias of seeing faces as convex is so strong it counters competing monocular depth cues, such as shading and shadows, and also very considerable unambiguous information from the two eyes signalling stereoscopically that the object is hollow. (Lighting a concave face from below to reverse the shading cues making them closer to those of a convex face lit from above can reinforce the illusion.)

The Hollow-Face illusion has been used to study the dissociation between vision-for-perception and vision-for-action (see Two-streams hypothesis).[2] In this experiment,[3] people used their finger to make a quick flicking movement at a small target attached to the inside surface of the hollow – but apparently normal – face, or on the surface of a normal protruding face. The idea was that the fast flicking (rather like flicking a small insect off the face) would engage the vision-for-action networks in the dorsal stream – and thus would be directed to the actual rather than the perceived position of the target. The results were clear. Despite the presence of a robust illusion in which people perceived the hollow face as if it were a normal protruding face, the flicking movements they made were accurately directed to the real, not the illusory location of the target. This result suggests that the bottom-up cues that drive the flicking response are distinct from the top-down cues that drive the Hollow-Face illusion.

Another example of the Hollow-Face illusion is the "Gathering 4 Gardner" dragon. This dragon's head seems to follow the viewer's eyes everywhere (even up or down), when lighting, perspective and/or stereoscopic cues are not strong enough to tell its face is actually hollow. Keen observers will note that the head doesn't actually follow them, but appears to turn twice as fast around its center than they do themselves.[4][5]

The Hollow-Face illusion is weaker among people with schizophrenia and other populations with psychotic symptoms, perhaps as a result of reduced tendency to interpret any kind of ambiguous 3D object as convex. It appears to be related to current mental state, namely in regard to current positive symptoms, inappropriate affect, and need for structure.[6][7] The illusion seems to strengthen among successfully treated patients.[8]

People on the Autism spectrum have been shown to be less susceptible to visual illusions,[9] including the hollow-face illuson.[10]


  • Different angles of Phra Lak Lae, a hollow-face Buddharupa in Wat Hiranyawat [th], Thailand
    Different angles of Phra Lak Lae, a hollow-face Buddharupa in Wat Hiranyawat [th], Thailand
  • This face of Björn Borg appears convex (pushed out), but is actually concave (pushed in).
    This face of Björn Borg appears convex (pushed out), but is actually concave (pushed in).
  • An example of the hollow-face illusion outside of a bank on the Paseo de Gracia in the Ensanche district of Barcelona
    An example of the hollow-face illusion outside of a bank on the Paseo de Gracia in the Ensanche district of Barcelona
  • Hollow-face in snow
    Hollow-face in snow
  • An optical illusion. A paper dragon shown from four angles across the 90 degree effective viewing area
    An optical illusion. A paper dragon shown from four angles across the 90 degree effective viewing area
  • The back of the paper dragon
    The back of the paper dragon

See also


  1. ^ Gregory, Richard (1970). The Intelligent Eye. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  2. ^ Goodale MA, Milner AD (1992). "Separate visual pathways for perception and action". Trends Neurosci. 15 (1): 20–5. doi:10.1016/0166-2236(92)90344-8. PMID 1374953. S2CID 793980.
  3. ^ Króliczak G, Heard P, Goodale MA, Gregory RL (2006). "Dissociation of perception and action unmasked by the hollow-face illusion". Brain Res. 1080 (1): 9–16. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2005.01.107. PMID 16516866. S2CID 15046208.
  4. ^ Ritchie, Bill (2014-01-01). "Welcome to the Official Home of Thinky the Dragon | by Bill Ritchie | Medium". Archived from the original on 2022-04-25. Retrieved 2022-04-25. In 1993 ... Gathering for Gardner ... Jerry’s Paradox Box ... The second Gathering for Gardner was in 1996. ... We also had been ruminating about Jerry Andrus and his Paradox Box, our designer WAG drew up a colored-marker version of an illusion based on the Paradox Box in the theme of a dragon. This was the first Thinky the Dragon, and Jerry loved it! ... For the third Gathering for Gardner in 1998, we (Binary Arts) gave a Thinky the Dragon handout to all conference attendees ...
  5. ^ "Mathematics Awareness Month - April 2014 - Theme Poster: Thinky the Dragon and Hollow Face Illusions". Mathematics Awareness Month. American Statistical Association. 2014. Archived from the original on 2022-04-02. Retrieved 2022-04-25. Thinky belongs to the class of hollow face illusions, which are a subcategory of ambiguous images. ... involves the combination of a subtle geometric effect, called reverse motion parallax (a variation of motion parallax) ... Like most Hollow Face illusions, Thinky is related to the Necker Cube illusion ...
  6. ^ Emrich HM (1989). "A three-component-system hypothesis of psychosis. Impairment of binocular depth inversion as an indicator of a functional dysequilibrium". British Journal of Psychiatry. 155 (5): S37-39. doi:10.1192/S0007125000295962. PMID 2690888.
  7. ^ Keane BP, Silverstein SM, Wang Y, Papathomas TV (2013). "Reduced depth inversion illusions in schizophrenia are state-specific and occur for multiple object types and viewing conditions" (PDF). J Abnorm Psychol. 122 (2): 506–12. doi:10.1037/a0032110. PMC 4155576. PMID 23713504.
  8. ^ Schneider U, Borsutzky M, Seifert J, Leweke FM, Huber TJ, Rollnik JD, et al. (2002). "Reduced binocular depth inversion in schizophrenic patients". Schizophr Res. 53 (1–2): 101–8. doi:10.1016/s0920-9964(00)00172-9. PMID 11728843. S2CID 31092860.
  9. ^ Kuhn, Gustav (2019-03-12). Experiencing the Impossible: The Science of Magic. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-03946-8.
  10. ^ Clark, Andy (2015-10-02). Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-021703-7.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Hollow-Face illusion
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.