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The Thatcher Illusion

    The Thatcher illusion, named after Margaret Thatcher because her face was the first to be used, illustrates the importance of viewing faces upright. Faces are processed holistically, taking the configuration to be the most important information. When faces are viewed upside-down, our ability to process the configuration is disrupted.

    One of the inverted faces below has had the eyes and mouth re-inverted. It looks odd, but not too alarming. By scrolling down to the bottom of the page, however, you can see how different the face looks when it is upright.

Inverted Thatcher illusion

Upright Thatcher illusion

    Looks very different doesn't it!? In the inverted version, you were only able to process the individual features, but when the faces are upright, you are also able to gain configural cues. Those cues, in the case of the face on the left, are decidedly wrong, although the features are perfectly alright.

The Thatcher illusion was first published by Thomson (will include reference soon).

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