They sometimes say that a picture is worth 1000 words. It is often used to describe how a picture can really tell a tale in ways that a lot of words are unable to tell it. There are times, however, that a picture may reveal much more than a story. That is the case with this illustration. In fact, there has been a lot of debate over what is actually shown in this illustration and you may want to chime in with what you see as well.
Some people see an older woman in the image but others see a young woman who is staring off into the distance. This is an incredible optical illusion and it is also one of the most popular optical illustrations of all time. What may surprise you is that the image you see within this optical illusion typically depends upon your age.
According to the study, older people are going to notice the older woman first and younger people are going to notice the younger woman. It is interesting to note, however, that there are always variations to that rule.
Two psychology professors from Flinders University, Australia took part in the study that included 393 participants. Those participants were between the ages of 18-68 but the average age was 32.
They were shown the ‘My Wife or My Mother-In-Law’ image for only half a second and were asked to reveal the age and gender of the figure they saw first.
The majority of the participants said that the younger woman showed up first. The study was designed to find out if somebody’s age affects the initial interpretation of what they see in an image on a subconscious level.
One of the researchers, Professor Mike Nicholls had this to say about the study: “What we found was that young people tended to see the young lady in the image, whereas with older people they tended to see the old lady.”
Perhaps you have looked at the image for a while and are wondering where the two different images are.
If you look at the older woman’s nose you are actually looking at the younger woman’s chin. The opposite is also true. If you look at the younger figure you’ll be looking at a side profile rather than a face.
The old lady is wearing a hood but the younger lady is wearing a fancy hat.
Are you able to see both images now?
Perhaps you’re asking, what does this have to do with age?
“Everyone has their own in-groups and out-groups,” Nicholls continued.
“Young people tend to have an in-group which focuses on other young people and old people tend to have a group focusing on older people. We think this subconscious bias is what you would see in one of the images.”
“So even people who might think that they are being balanced or fair about a person’s age – what we are showing is it seems to be subconscious.”
When the oldest 10% and the youngest 10% were separated, they found that most of the older participants did see the older woman first and the younger group spotted the younger woman first.
The seems like a logical conclusion but I’m not sure why it takes some people so long to figure out where the second image is. Sometimes when we see something we just can’t unsee it.