rotating head illusion

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A visual illusion in which a two-dimensional painting or photograph of a head (or of any three-dimensional object) appears to rotate in the same direction as a viewer who moves in front of it from one side to the other. The illusion results from the fact that if the head were three-dimensional, then the viewer, moving from side to side, would see it first from one side, then from the front, then finally from the other side, as if the head were rotating in the opposite direction, and the head would appear stationary, therefore with a two-dimensional painting or photograph, the absence of any apparent contrary rotation causes the head to appear to rotate in the same direction as the viewer, and the sitter's gaze seems to follow the viewer around. Also called the portrait illusion. Compare hollow-face illusion.

Subjects: Psychology.

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