Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What's Your Spin?

One of my co-workers sent me a link to an interesting online test that's supposed to measure whether a person is mainly left-brained or right-brained:


Different people actually see the figure spinning in different directions. You may also want to try looking at it from more than one angle. I see it spinning clockwise, except when I look at it from the corner of my left eye—then it goes back and forth.

If I hadn't known it was a test, though, it probably never would have occurred to me that other people would see it differently. That left me thinking about the many ways in which our perceptions differ. Not only can we see things moving in different directions based on whether the right brain or left brain is dominant, we also see colors differently, depending on how many rods and cones we have in our eyes. What looks like a bright and vibrant color to one person may seem pale and washed-out to another, and a small minority cannot see some colors at all. The light in a building may seem too bright to some and too dim to another, while some find that the fluorescent bulbs have an uncomfortable flicker that others cannot see.

It's the same with sound. A volume that seems normal to some of us may be unpleasantly loud to others, while another person can barely hear it. We enjoy different kinds of music. Some of us find repetitive sounds such as falling rain or chirping birds to be relaxing, while others find that such things get on their nerves. Some of us can hear the humming of electronic devices, while others can't. Loud, sudden noises startle some people, but others aren't bothered at all. Some folks don't mind living next to a highway, while others would be very annoyed by the noise.

We also perceive smells differently. One person's favorite perfume makes another person wonder what's rotting in the garbage can. Some of us enjoy walking through a fragrant flower garden, while others prefer the smells of a woodworking shop or a library. Although some folks love to linger in the bath and beauty stores at the mall, sniffing all those perfumed products, others will take a long detour to avoid walking past them.

There's a vast amount of individual variation when it comes to taste, as the gigantic supermarkets of today's society clearly show. Some people are very picky and will eat only a small number of foods, while others prefer a large variety, and there are a few folks who will eat just about anything you put in front of them. There are people who pour salt and ketchup on everything, while others dislike condiments and salty foods. Some folks like fried and processed foods, but others go for the veggies and other natural stuff.

As for touch and texture, some people don't mind being touched unexpectedly, while others find it very unsettling. A temperature that is pleasant for one person may be too hot or cold for another. Some prefer to wear natural fabrics, while others are more comfortable in synthetics. Touching a rough surface such as a popsicle stick seems creepy to some of us, but many folks don't mind. Some people hate getting wet, while others love it.

When you think about how many individual differences there are—literally thousands of differences—in how we perceive the world around us, it becomes clear that each person has a unique profile of sensory experience that varies significantly from that of everyone else. Two people standing next to each other are never going to experience the same thing.

So—considering the extent to which our individual wiring gives us very different perspectives on our world—isn't it about time to do away with the prejudiced fiction that there is such a thing as a "normal" brain?

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  • Great post! It's about time alright. The time for that is way past due.

    By Blogger Ed, at 9:54 AM  

  • Clockwise, no matter what I do.

    By Blogger Joeymom, at 10:58 AM  

  • Counter Clockwise.

    By Blogger Patrick, at 1:24 PM  

  • Clockwise.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 1:24 PM  

  • The thing is a fix. It changes direction. You can sometimes get to see this if you scroll down, away from the dancer and then quickly scroll up again. Or click away from the page and then back again. But it definitely changes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:13 PM  

  • Clockwise, no matter how many times I go back to it.


    By Blogger Club 166, at 2:52 PM  

  • The thing doesn't change directions. It's just easier to get it to flip directions for you if you scroll down and back up and such. But you can make it switch directions while staring at it just as well.

    I don't believe it says much about what brain half you use more, though. I had that extensively tested once, and came out incredibly left-brain dominant, but the thing spinned in the right-brain direction for me for the first few hours, then I managed to get it spinning the other way for a few hours, then, after staring at it for way too long, it moved from side to side, or more creepy: its top half spun in a different direction than the bottom half.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:29 PM  

  • Actually it does change directions, but it's just a matter of time, not scrolling or clicking away. The animation is probably using a random number generator. If you watch it continuously for a few minutes, you will see that it changes. If you read the comments on the bottom of the main page, a number of people explain it very well. The newspaper got hoaxed, and we all did by extension.

    But there are lots of other examples of this sort of thing that aren't hoaxes, and if we just mentally substitute one of those, the post is a very good one.

    By Blogger VAB, at 4:22 PM  

  • Both clockwise and anti-clockwise in countertime - about 30 sec interval

    By Blogger Alyric, at 4:22 PM  

  • Anti clockwise, then flip it back, then jump and and forth - that's why I love optical illusions. Maybe it's something to do with bifocals!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:24 PM  

  • Actually, I was wrong. It's just my brain that flips it back and forth. Being an obsessive geek, I downloaded it and decompiled it to the individual frames. It's very clever and, no, the order that the frames are being presented in does not change.

    By Blogger VAB, at 5:10 PM  

  • What does it mean if all you noticed was that her nipples were erect?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:50 PM  

  • cool...
    very spinny.
    it switched back and forth continually....some times with a minute in between, other just a few seconds.

    By Blogger Amanda, at 8:45 PM  

  • This "illusion" got posted on the Wrong Planet forums, and then "disappeared" again for some reason before i was able to show it to the friend i wanted to show it to (who isn't autistic, but has some... unusual perceptive abilities) - it was biled there as an illusion that wouldn't "work" for/on autistic people, IIRC...

    It's clockwise for me no matter what, too.

    I'm finding it almost impossible to believe that the same figure spinning clockwise and anticlockwise would project exactly the same silhouette (which must be true if it doesn't change) tho - surely, if "she" was spinning anticlockwise, her upraised leg would move in the opposite direction? Unless (maybe) it's the other leg... now i'm really confused...

    By Blogger stevethehydra, at 9:47 PM  

  • Shiva,

    The thing is that there is a question of what constitutes the right leg and what constitutes the right leg.

    Take a look at this still frame:
    and see if you can determine if the outstretched leg is her right leg (in front) or her left leg (behind).

    What I am amazed out is how completely I was not able to believe that my brain was processing the same thing two different ways. Brains are funny things.

    By Blogger VAB, at 10:05 PM  

  • I meant to say, "what constitutes the right leg and what constitutes the right leg."

    This is obviously beyond my processing powers.

    By Blogger VAB, at 10:32 PM  

  • Ah, hem, I meant to say "what constitutes the right leg and what constitutes the LEFT leg."

    There. That's right now. (Hopefully.)

    By Blogger VAB, at 10:33 PM  

  • A friend had sent me this link a few weeks ago. It always starts out clockwise for me and then switches if I look away. I really like the way you used this visual trick to illustrate your point here. "Seeing is Believing" maybe, but that doesn't make the belief true. It's important to have this pointed out from time to time.

    By Blogger Bev, at 11:31 PM  

  • It seems to spin clockwise most naturally, but I can get it to spin either way by moving the curser arrow or my finger (in the air) either counterclockwise or clockwise.

    For a while I could just choose to spin it one way or the other which was fun.

    Looking at it peripherally didn't always change the direction but did a couple of times. My eyes are wired up a little different because I don't see in 3D and my brain usually ignores one eye or the other. anyway, looking at it with left eye or right eye, the default was still clockwise. I would have guessed that looking at it with each eye might give me two different results, but it didn't.

    I know how the eyes are wired up to the brain, it's not the left eye only communicates wtih the right brain, but I wanted to see if it there was a difference...

    I would bet that autistics would watch her spin for a longer period than a non-autisitc.

    People who are raised in round huts can't see a Y shape on a piece of paper as representing the corner of a room near the ceiling. We grow up seeing Y shapes in all the rooms of our homes where a corner meets the ceiling (and floor, only the "Y" is upside down.)

    So our brains are hard wired according to what we are exposed to, things that just seem normal to us, wire up the brain in a certain way.

    People who have never seen photographs until adulthood have a hard time seeing a photograph as representing the thing photographed.

    You can't show monkeys a movie and expect them to see the movie or video as something similar to reality, either.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:39 AM  

  • Clockwise.
    And well said!

    By Blogger Casdok, at 6:53 AM  

  • It's an outside turn en attitude. I'm "split dominant" and it doesn't change direction for me (and I've seen it on like 4 boards). I hypothesize that part of the reason it seems to flip is the shadow and part is that most people are used to "inside" turns, particularly in this position-an outside turn in front attitude is pretty inefficient (back attitude on the other hand makes sense, and was my beam turn).

    I've been told I dissect it so much I take the fun out of it, but that's kind of my JOB...

    By Blogger Neurodivergent K, at 12:02 AM  

  • I saw both clockwise and counterclockwise.

    I am also ambidextrous. Although, my neurologist says I am really a lefty because my left eye is my dominant eye. I have to trust him because I never knew there was such a thing. What....not everybody can write on a blackboard with both hands....at the same time...while solving differential equations?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:57 PM  

  • I don't know what an "outside" or "inside" turn is. Does one correspond to clockwise and the other to anticlockwise?

    By Blogger stevethehydra, at 3:48 PM  

  • clockwise. I tried hard to get her to go the other way... reading the text is what made it happen through the corner of my eye
    wow norah... creepy
    abfh, great pos. DH and I are very different in our perceptions of color and space and sound, oh yeah...smells! textures!!
    YES! it IS about time to do away with the prejudiced fiction that there is such a thing as a "normal" brain?

    By Blogger Suzanne, at 2:24 PM  

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