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This T-Rex Illusion Will Blow Your Mind

Submitted by on December 30, 2013 – 8:42 amOne Comment
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A video showing an optical illusion involving a cartoon T-Rex has gone viral on YouTube. The two-minute clip shows various incarnations of a cardboard T-Rex that appears to somehow turn its head to follow the camera as the camera operator moves back and forth. And the explanation is so simple, you’ll barely believe it.

As you can see at the end of the video, the cardboard cutout face is actually curved away from the viewer, According to Slate science writer Phil Plait, this creates the illusion as our brains try to reconcile a recognizable face with an unrecognizable shape. He explains that the human brain as an “uncanny ability to pick out face patterns (called pareidolia).” And the brain knows that faces are supposed to curve towards the viewer. So when confronted with the incongruous input provided by the T-Rex cutout, the brain creates the illusion as it tries to reconcile the face and make it curve out.

(But personally, I think part of the video’s success has to do with the production value. Who could resist eight T-Rexes gazing sheepishly over their shoulders, and that melodramatic score?)

Plait says that the T-Rex illusion was created by magician and skeptic Jerry Andrus. According to Andrus’ official website, he once described illusions in a way that could describe the T-Rex illusion itself: “I can fool you because you’re a human… You have a wonderful human mind that works no different from my human mind. Usually when we’re fooled, the mind hasn’t made a mistake. It’s come to the wrong conclusion for the right reason.”

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