You’ve seen it in horror movies, or even in real-life at the local museum: a painting in which the eyes of the person portrayed seem to follow you around the room, no matter where you go.
People have described the effect as creepy or eerie, and some have thought it supernatural. But now researchers have demonstrated the very natural cause for this visual effect.
All it takes for the effect to work is to have the person in the painting, or photograph, look straight ahead, said James Todd, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at Ohio State University. Our visual perception takes care of the rest. “The core idea is simple: no matter what angle you look at a painting from, the painting itself doesn’t change. You’re looking at a flat surface. The pattern of light and dark remains the same,” Todd said. “We found that our visual perception of a picture also remains largely unchanged as we look at it from different vantage points. If a person in a painting is looking straight out, it will always appear that way, regardless of the angle at which it is viewed.”
James Todd | EurekAlert!
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