activity page will offer:
an experience in identifying faces in terms of context
activity in the science of optical illusions
arena for critical thinking analysis and extensions
- Discarded fashion or entertainment magazines
1-Constructing the Target Face
- Obtain a fashion magazine or other rich source of disposable
- Flip through the pages and identify a large headshot in
which the model faces directly into the camera lens.
- Use scissors to carefully remove this image from the magazine.
- Identify three rectangular perimeters: one around the
mouth and one around each eye. Be sure to include the entire
feature within each rectangle.
- Use your scissors to carefully cut out each of the three
rectangles while keeping the rest of the face as intact
- Rotate all of the rectangular cutouts 180 degrees.
- Position each of the cutouts upside down back into the
space from which they were cut. Try to match these rectangles
up as neatly possibly, without allowing space to show around
the edges. Place a strip of tape on the back of the page
to secure the three inserts within the face.
2 - Testing Subjects
- Identify 5 people (family and friends outside of class)
who are not aware of this activity. Keep all subjects unaware
of the upcoming experience.
- Test each subject individually. Ask them to sit down in
a location that other subjects cannot observe. Rotate the
headshot so that the image "stands on its head" (the eyes
and mouth, however, will appear rightside-up).
- Show the upside-down headshot to your subject. Have them
describe the whole image in terms of what they see. Ask:
Is the person in this photo happy? Sad? Does anything appear
strange about this image? Record their responses, noting
whether they describe the face as upside-down or rightside-up.
- After the subject has commented on the headshot, rotate
it to its upright position. Have the subject describe what
they see and record their response.
- Repeat the activity with the same subject and discuss
how the appearance of the person in the photo changes through
the rotation. If there is a change, at what point does this
- Why was it important to keep the subjects unaware of
- How many subjects did not observe the flipped-over features
during their initial trial?
- Once they were made aware of the effect, were the subjects
still "tricked" by the image?
On Your Own
a strategy for inquiry to determine the rotational angle at
which we no longer perceive distortions. At what point do
we interpret a distorted facial image, such as the one used
here, to be simply upside-down?
what you have observed in this activity in your experimental
design. What observation might be used to help identify when
this "flipping point" occurs? With your instructor's approval,
perform this activity on a new set of subjects.
Think about it. Why were fashion and entertainment magazines
suggested for this activity? What other print or electronic
media might offer an equivalent source of appropriate photographs
or images for this activity?
Do you think that someone would more likely be fooled by the
"tweaked" and inverted headshot of a famous and familiar face?
Why or why not? Develop a strategy of inquiry that would test
this question. With your instructor's approval, perform this
activity on a new set of subjects.
Work in a team to create a giant wall mural that displays
dozens of flipped faces and facial parts. You will need to
pin each "tweaked" image to a bulletin board or paste it to
a large sheet of paper backing. Include images of famous people
taken from all sorts of discarded magazines. You may want
to flip the mural around on a daily schedule.
Make your own distorted face. Use a digital camera to capture
your headshot. Work alone or with someone familiar with a
basic computer graphics program like Photoshop. Import the
headshot and highlight a rectangular block that encompasses
one of the features to be flipped. Use the menu option to
rotate this highlighted region 180 degrees. After you've flipped
both eyes and mouth, print your photo.
Is Just Another Face In The Crowd To Autistic Children
online magazine article that discuss autism and face recognition
Snsory Adventure- Optical Illusion
One of the richest sites of optical illusion and processing
Myself and I
Causes of Face Blindness
An article on self-recognition based upon a mirrored image
An online book about "face blindness"
more Web links on this topic - visit our Resources
activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio,
a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical
Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound"
(Sterling Publishing Co., NY).
Academic Advisors for this Guide:
Corrine Lowen, Science Department, Wayland Public Schools,
Suzanne Panico, Science Teacher Mentor, Cambridge Public Schools,
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School,