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Homage to Peter Thompson: The Tony Blair illusion In 1980 Peter Thompson published his celebrated paper on the Thatcher illusion, which
 

Summary: Homage to Peter Thompson: The Tony Blair illusion
In 1980 Peter Thompson published his celebrated paper on the Thatcher illusion, which
became one of the most frequently cited papers ever published in Perception. In homage
to Peter Thompson, and to mark the quarter-centenary of his efforts, I propose here a
Tony Blair illusion (figure 1).
We are adept at recognizing faces, but our skills fail when faces are inverted
(presented upside down). This failure is thought to be due to disruption of configural
processing. Thompson inverted just the eyes and mouth in a portrait of Mrs Thatcher,
which produced a grotesque effect. However, when a normal and `thatcherized' face
were both inverted, the perceptual differences between them vanished and they both
looked fairly normal. Thompson's web page at http://www-users.york.ac.uk/$pt2/ shows
his own face, which looks marginally more grotesque when thatcherized. Michael
Bach has a Quicktime movie of Mrs Thatcher's face slowly rotating, on his web page
at http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/.
Thompson's remarkable illusion suggests that decoding of facial expression seems
to work best in the same orientation in which faces are seen most of the time. Even
6-month-old babies (Bertin and Bhatt 2004) and autistic children (Rouse et al 2004)
are susceptible to the Thatcher illusion. In fact Lewis (2003) found no effect of age
among people aged between 6 and 75 years; young children showed the same effects as
adults. Similarly, Itier and Taylor (2004) found inversion and contrast-reversal effects

  

Source: Anstis, Stuart - Department of Psychology, University of California at San Diego

 

Collections: Biology and Medicine