It’s one of the world’s most famous optical illusions. Dubbed “My Wife and My Mother-in-Law” and “The Boring Figure” (because Edwin Boring wrote a paper about it in 1930, not because it’s dull), the picture shows both a young woman turning away and an old woman in profile, depending on how you look at it.
Well, this classic illusion just got a lot more interesting. A study from Flinders University in Australia has shown that whether you see the young woman or the old woman first hinges on one key factor – your age.
Research suggests that those under 30 notice the young woman (the artist’s wife) first, whereas those over 30 detect the old one (the mother-in-law).
The study included 393 participants from ages 18 to 68, with the average age being 32-years-old. The group were shown the illusion for half a second, then asked what age and gender they saw.
The majority picked up on the younger woman first, which researchers suspect is because the group was on the younger side over all. However, when they removed the youngest 10% and oldest 10% of the participants, the researchers noted that the younger people saw the young woman and the older people the old woman.
The study’s aim was to see if if “own-age biases affect the initial interpretation of an image at a subconscious level,” and it looks as though the answer is yes.