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The Oxford Compendium of Visual Illusions$
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Arthur G. Shapiro and Dejan Todorovic

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199794607

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199794607.001.0001

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About Face

About Face

The Margaret Thatcher Illusion

Chapter:
(p.633) Chapter 91 About Face
Source:
The Oxford Compendium of Visual Illusions
Author(s):

Peter Thompson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199794607.003.0091

Inverting the eyes and the mouth in a smiling face renders the expression grotesque. However, when this image is itself rotated through 180 degrees, the grotesque expression is no longer apparent—the smiling expression returns. This illusion, first shown with the face of the then UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, has been explained as showing the detrimental effects of inversion on configural or holistic processing of faces. This explanation is, however, not entirely satisfactory and the illusion is still not fully understood. Variants and relevant parameters of the effect are explored, as are related concepts of inversion, expression, and face perception.

Keywords:   face perception, Thatcher illusion, inversion, expression

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