are you left or right brained?

Posted on March 31st, 2011

Don’t we just love to test ourselves to see “which one” we are! I think I did this test years back. Perhaps you’ve seen it? Can you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Spinning-lady-5693171

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain. And vice versa. Most see her turning anti-clockwise. Which I find IMPOSSIBLE to fathom. I can only see her going clockwise. Surprising…I’ve always convinced myself I’m completely left brained – rational, logical etc.

See the rundown of the right and left-brain functions. Apparently you can try to focus and change the direction.

Since I posted this, reader Teresa sent me a link to a site that explains how this works (and that the right/left brain divide isn’t accurate – we use both in tandem)…

What they reveal is how our brain processes visual information in order to create a visual model of the world. The visual system evolved to make certain assumptions that are almost always right (like, if something is smaller is it likely farther away). But these assumptions can be exploited to created a false visual construction, or an optical illusion.

The spinning girl is a form of the more general spinning silhouette illusion. The image is not objectively “spinning” in one direction or the other. It is a two-dimensional image that is simply shifting back and forth. But our brains did not evolve to interpret two-dimensional representations of the world but the actual three-dimensional world. So our visual processing assumes we are looking at a 3-D image and is uses clues to interpret it as such. Or, without adequate clues it may just arbitrarily decide a best fit – spinning clockwise or counterclockwise. And once this fit is chosen, the illusion is complete – we see a 3-D spinning image.

LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

  • uses logic
  • detail oriented
  • facts rule
  • present and past
  • knows object name
  • words and language
  • math and science
  • can comprehend knowing
  • acknowledges
  • order/pattern perception
  • reality based
  • forms strategies
  • practical safe

RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

  • uses feeling
  • “big picture” oriented
  • imagination rules
  • symbols and images
  • present and future
  • philosophy & religion
  • can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
  • believes
  • appreciates
  • spatial perception
  • knows object function
  • fantasy based
  • presents possibilities
  • impetuous
  • risk taking

OK, so there’s conjecture about all this. Regardless, I quite like the idea that I could be a right-brainer. Maybe I don’t have to struggle to be so damn logical and fact-checky and hard on myself that I forget names of things but remember what they do.

You?

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  • http://susannahconway.com/ Susannah

    well, i’ve been staring at her for five minutes and there’s *no way* she is gonna go anti-clockwise – how is that possible? is this a trick? ;)

    I’ve always known I’m a right-brainer. I sometimes wonder if i even have a left brain…

    [Reply]

  • http://taf.tumblr.com Teresa

    I can change the way she’s spinning by looking elsewhere, or focusing intensely on something in the picture.

    You should probably know, though, that the left brain-right brain dichotomy is pretty much bunk. Our two brain halves are extraordinarily good at working together — sure it determines handedness (and the hemisphere in which language centres reside) but other than that, people shouldn’t put too much stock into how left or right brained they are.

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    viola Reply:

    Just to touch on the handedness point – my two daughters are left handed and this prompted me to look into the science around it. I learned that though hand dominance has long been considered to be an external clue to brain symmetry, more recent studies have concluded a genetic root (as well as many other factors), and that only a proportion of lefthanders actually have reversed hemisphere function, thus debunking the mirror correlation theory. I found this interesting, not sure anyone else will!

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    Teresa Reply:

    you might be interested in the split brain phenomenon too. the brain’s a pretty cool thing to study!

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  • Nicole

    Wow… try as I might, can only see a clockwise rotation.
    Interesting, as I’ve always considered myself VERY Left brained (detail/logic orientated, strong language skills (I’m a speech pathologist) – I tell people I have a ‘dicky inner compass’ (have not an iota of spatial/directional skills. Where’s North again?).
    I feel like my whole self-perception is on shaky grounds… :)

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    Brittany Reply:

    ‘dicky inner compass’ made me laugh. Both my nan and I are notorious for our lack of directional skills (perhaps not coincidentally neither of us drive).

    I only see clockwise.

    Some of my traits:
    Good with written words, terrible verbal communicator
    I love anything visual and i can only learn through images or ‘real life’ experience
    I loathe to admit, ‘my way or no way’
    Right handed but kinda ambidextrous and lots of lefty family members
    Impervious. Yes.

    And endlessly fascinated by the way we humans work!

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    Brittany Reply:

    Lol. Impetuous. Silly…

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  • bec

    I am so confused. At first I saw her rotating clockwise, then I glanced at my keyboard and then back up and I saw her rotating anti-clockwise, then with my eyes still on her she spontaneously changed direction again back to clockwise.

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    Kathryn Reply:

    me too, I’m so glad someone else experienced this! I now need to read and see what this all means!

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    Lucy Cotter Reply:

    Me too! I’m rather glad I seem to have both sides of my brain working! It’s fun to play with perceptions, though. I once had a great time at Scienceworks in an exhibit which had a bunch of these visual and perceptual puzzles. The wonder of it all.

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    Lisa Reply:

    me as well! wonder what that means.. I thought it might be an April fools trick! :)

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    Suzanne Reply:

    Me too! Thought something was amiss until I read your comments, she definitely goes in both directions. Does that mean we use both hemispheres equally?

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    cassidy Reply:

    same here! I’m really curious as to what that means.

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  • Bec

    Sarah,

    I’m a right sided brain person…. although I have known that for some time. I think that sometimes I try to act like a lefty in order to have the family and home organised as best as possible. I have two left sided brain individuals in the house, my husband and my 14 year old daughter and two right sided brain individuals, myself and my 12 year old daughter. It makes for interesting living and we complement each other beautifully!

    Have a lovely day.

    Bec

    [Reply]

  • http://taf.tumblr.com Teresa

    Just found this http://theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=27

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Thanks Teresa, I’m going to update the post, if that’s cool?

    [Reply]

  • http://jo1foster.wordpress.com Jo

    Oh my. I can only see her go anti-clockwise… way too freaky! xx

    [Reply]

  • http://taf.tumblr.com Teresa

    “Maybe I don’t have to struggle to be so damn logical and fact-checky and hard on myself that I forget names of things but remember what they do.”

    I like this. In fact I like the idea that we can expand our minds by doing things like looking at illusions or sudoku or brain gym or whatever. We are so limited by our own thinking and we shouldn’t be!

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  • T

    At first glance I could only see her going anti-clockwise. Then I looked again and she switched direction and I couldn’t make my brain see it any other way than clockwise. After a break I came back to the screen and the exact same thing happened. Always anti-clockwise for a moment, before switching to clockwise

    Any ideas what this may mean?

    [Reply]

  • http://canwedoityepwecan.blogspot.com/ Mel

    Uhoh, what happens if first time I look it’s going clockwise, then look away, look back and it’s ant-clockwise, then clockwise again 3rd time!

    [Reply]

    Teresa Reply:

    Sarah’s since updated the post, so you might like to read it again (and the link). Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re mentally unhinged or anything!

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    Janet NZ Reply:

    Thank God for that! It was happening for me too…
    But, I am getting dizzy watching her :-)

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  • althea

    so cool! i started off clockwise, so i figure thats my main side. but i figured out that if i stare at the foot of the woman i can see it going anti-clockwise too. if you dont really look at the woman and just see the leg its a lot easier.

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  • Mia

    She is obviously going anti-clockwise to me. I cant fathom how she could be doing anything else, BUT go anti-clockwise. That’s quite humorous. :)

    Considering I get in trouble for being cold and logical and I work in accounts thats not surprising.

    I wish I wasnt so left-brained… concepts like spirituality and religion appeal to me, they really do, but I just cant buy it! I cant let go of that side of me that wants proof for everything. My brain is too logical sometimes. I miss things, subtle clues, intuitive things. It frustrates me. I feel like I am lopsided and missing out on stuff because I struggle to acknowledge what cant be logically argued. I wish I could just let go, but I find it so hard.

    Here is an interesting question – does anyone think you can change? Become more like one or the other, or that maybe you can change throughout your life depending on circumstances? I would love to know.

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  • darrin

    When I focus (or concentrate) only on the image, she is clockwise.
    When I begin reading the text below, she changes to anti-clockwise.
    When I change my focus back to the image, she changes to clockwise.

    Which is inline with the different left and right brain functions.
    Right = symbols and images
    Left = words and language

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  • peckingbird

    I can make her switch directions at will, but it has taken a lot of practice.

    I naturally see her clockwise, but if you focus on the feet rotating it is possible to make her switch directions.

    I have seen this before and find it endlessly fascinating! If somebody know how this illusion works I would be most interested!

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  • Eve

    I was definitely seeing her go anti-clockwise, both when I was looking at her and when I was reading the text below. Then, when I was looking at your blurb on the right-hand side of the page– Cosmopolitan, MasterChef Australia, etc, she suddenly switched. I read the text below her again, and she went back to anti-clockwise. Read about Cosmo and MasterChef, and then she was back to clockwise! Maybe because your blurb was engaging my imagination about something other than the subject at hand? Weird.

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  • Selena

    OMG – I can see her going clockwise too! That surprises me.
    I too always thought I was more logical than feelings-based.
    In fact, I am often told I influence too much by logic rather than by the heart-strings.
    The constant Head vs Heart, Right vs Left Brain Tug of War :)

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  • Michele

    I looked at the spinning girl and noted that she was spinning in an anti clockwise manner. I subsequently started reading the text and absorbing the content, checked the spinning motion…..same. Continued reading an looked up….she had changed direction – that’s scary. Apparently we do use both sides of our brain consecutively!! I never cease to be amazed and what a miraculous creation we are!!

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  • kary

    OMG she was going anticlockwise and then BAM she started going clockwise and i cant get it back..crazy!

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  • kate

    Wow. At first she was going anti-clockwise but now she’s going clockwise!! (I just looked again and she’s going anti-clockwise again. What does this make me? aaarrrhhhh
    I just looked again…clockwise! I’m tripping out here!!

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  • http://oneaprilmorning.net Laura

    I have looked at the spinning girl quite a few times today and every time she is clockwise… looks like my left-brain function needs work! It’s funny, I swear I used to be predominantly left-hand function and I have gradually switched to right… I guess it’s not set in stone : )

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  • Jes

    I open this post and saw the girl going anti clockwise – read the first sentence – looked back and she’s going clockwise.

    *confused* I can pretty much change her direction at whim (or a shake of my head and refocus) – I wonder what that means?

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  • Moe

    As a neuroscientist who studies – you guessed it – visual perceptual illusions, I have two thoughts: The first one is just a lot of science on how the spinning girl works. The spinning girl illusion is a bistable illusion. That is, there are two interpretations (spinning right and spinning left) that are both viable interpretations of the information coming into your visual system from the outside world. These two interpretations compete for dominance in the brain. (As a side note, this is not a normal use of the word ‘compete.’ The perceptions compete at the level of single brain cells which are able to both code information and influence the coding that other cells are doing.) So what’s the deal with her switching? When your brain makes the decision about which way to see her spinning, there is more than just information coming in from the environment. There is also internal influence, from things past experiences or an intention to see her spinning one way or the other. This info is summed with the information from the outside. Maybe that’s why you are able to switch her direction. She often switches when we look away because the cells that code for the dominant interpretation fatigue, so looking away and looking back allows the non-dominant to compete again – and win! Whew! That was a lot of info … Hope it answers a question or two.

    The second thought is maybe more important: despite the fact that left brain right brain distinction is not correct, it is probably still valuable for us to think in these terms. Any system of classification that helps us to better understand ourselves has the potential to yield insight. Saying ‘left brain’ is really just short hand for saying that you are given to certain tendencies. Which is helpful to know. (AND ITS FUN!)

    [Reply]

    Mel Reply:

    Thankyou, that is so interesting. You study something so amazing.

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    Janet Reply:

    Hi Moe
    Why do you say that left and right brain distinction is not correct? Would appreciate your explanation.
    Cheers

    [Reply]

    Moe Reply:

    Let’s see if I can make this coherent. Any particular cell in my brain at a certain point in time can do one of two things: fire an electrical burst or stay silent. This event has no meaning on its own. It is not until you connect the cell to another cell that can detect the electricity, and then take action itself, that you get informational coding and, eventually, action. We are in the habit (neuroscientists and everyone else too) of saying that a population of cells (a particular area in the brain) does a certain function. We say this because activity in that area of the brain becomes especially strong during behaviour, which requires that function. However, the activity of that area is meaningless without the rest of the brain (and the peripheral nerves, etc.) to listen to it. There is no such thing as a localised function without the activity of the rest of the system (consider the high degree of connectivity between areas in the brain – the type of cell which dies during Parkinson’s Disease, for example, can make connections with hundreds of thousands of other cells).

    We can only say that certain areas are necessary for a certain function – Broca’s area on the left is necessary for language in the sense that if you remove Broca’s area, speech cannot function as before. But we cannot say whether it was Broca’s area itself that is necessary or was it the input from somewhere else in the brain to Broca’s that was necessary, or maybe it was the output from Broca’s to somewhere else… we can never really tell!

    As less straightforward, more philosophical explanation, brain cells are binary coders (two settings: firing or not), but you cannot read the code without looking at the entirety of the brain, as with binary. To make it even trickier, the coding of the brain can be interpreted at the level of a single nerve, or a population of nerves or even as the electrical/magnetic activity of the whole brain. Brain coding means different things depending on what’s happened across the whole brain just before as well, meaning that the brain codes across time. Ascribing functions to certain areas of the brain merely testifies that there is a correlation between an increase in activity in that spot when a certain thing happens. In other words, it’s a human definition and is not intrinsic to the brain.

    That might be a bit too much answer. I hope it seems to make at least a little sense ☺

    [Reply]

    Teresa Reply:

    So broken down into plain English — there are certain functions such as reasoning and language that map to the left side of the brain, and others such as visual-spatial abilities map to the right (if I remember my neuroscience correctly, this was established through study of people with lesions in particular parts of the brain). But it’s wrong to say that just because you think of yourself as an analytical number cruncher who thinks with the head, not the heart, that you are literally “left brained”. Just like it’s wrong to say that an artistic, sensitive individual is “right brained”. Like Moe says, saying you are left or right brained is a shorthand for a tendency to certain traits.

    I think most importantly what Moe is getting at is that if you see the woman spinning clockwise, it doesn’t actually say anything about your personality. It just means that the neurons in your brain are taking in certain cues from the environment and interpreting them a certain way. Just like that optical illusion where you see both a young lady and an old lady in the same picture — your brain can only see it one way at a time.

    If the way you see her spinning happens to match up with your left brain-right brain traits as described by the “test”, or if you see her switching directions, it’s just down to chance. It doesn’t actually say anything about your brain or personality per se.

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Dear Moe, thanks so much for that explanation. Makes perfect sense. You’re a wonderful explainer.

  • Jo

    Not sure what this means, but I can see her spinning boths ways – I just need to look away in between. Does this mean I am balanced left and right and strong in each? Or just completely vague with no focus from either side of the brain….

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  • http://www.theworklifebalancecoach.com bill

    It started going clockwise and then jumped and went the other way. So am I right brained, left brained…or unhinged!?

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  • Amanda

    Buahaha, I totally looked away for a minute, looked back and thought “Why did it change?!” Then I read the part about concentrating and switching which way it goes. I’m so entertained/dumfounded! How fun!

    On first glance, with out concentrating, she’s going clockwise. I can make her go counterclockwise pretty easily, though. Guess this means I’m pretty mentally balanced. Woohoo!

    [Reply]

  • http://www.nolonger.com Jade @ No Longer 25

    Ahh this is so weird, she keep switching right before my eyes, one minute she’s going clockwide the next anti-clockwise – that probably means I’m pretty messed up, oh well nothing I didn’t know already.

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  • Julie

    I keep switching between seeing her going clockwise and anti-clockwise…switches every couple of seconds…so yeah no idea really…but it seems I’m not the only one…

    Love, Jules

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  • lulubrownskin

    Hmmmm, initially she is moving anti-clockwise & THEN she moves clockwise! Am I half-’n-half?!! lol

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  • Shanina

    Like some of the folk above I can watch the girl spin clockwise, blink, and then she’s spinning anti-clockwise. It’s ok. It means my brain has 2 sides and they are both engaged!

    I’m a corporate trainer, and with a room of 12 people (trapped for 3-4 weeks) it’s been too tempting to run activities and see what resonates with lefties and what resonates with righties.

    From research and observation I have discovered this;
    1. We almost all have both sides of our brain (otherwise our head would loll to one side precariously…)
    2. Both sides are required to survive, eg left brain does tax, right brain finds the creative deductions
    3. Even if you have a preference to being a lefty or a righty (brained, not handed) you should exercise the other half because you don’t know when it might be needed!

    I’m mainly a righty, and so I’m going through an exercise of making my lefty chores (yawn) a little more creative. Yes, I’ve never done scrapbooking before, but I’ve essentially scrapbooked my profit and loss so that I look at it and use it! I’m making my business plan more diagrammatic too so that I can mount it on the wall and check that I’m following the map…

    I’ve found that if I pacify my inner lefty with a little budgeting, my inner righty can be creative without guilt. It’s actually a much longer story than that, but I’m excited about this stuff!

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  • http://www.acai-berry-select.com Chris

    Clockwise for me! At first, I thought it was a static image; until I moved the mouse; and then she started spinning; but only as long as I keep the pointer moving.

    Strange.

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  • http://www.scrapsoflife.com/blog Scraps

    Okay, when I first looked at her she was “spinning” totally clockwise. Then I looked down and started reading the text underneath and, out of the “corner” (more like top, really, but you know what I mean) I noticed the figure seemed to be moving counter-clockwise! I look up and, absolutely, counter-clockwise.

    The phone rings, I turn around to answer it, return to the monitor and clockwise again.

    I know, though, that I use both sides of the brain quite regularly (bookkeeper day job, artist-by-night) so I think it has something to do with which head-space I’m in. Reading left to right clicked me from ‘I wonder what this’s all about’ to ‘logical letters and words forming.’

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  • http://definedelirium.blogspot.com mika

    i can see her spinning both sides (not simultaneously, of course :D) depending on where i look. most of the time i see her moving anti-clockwise.

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  • paula

    i saw her turnin anti-clockwise. then closed my eyes. then she turned clockwise. WTF!?

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  • http://beautyoverthrowsyou.blogspot.com erin

    at first she was turning counter clockwise, but then i concentrated and SOMEHOW made her turn clockwise. thing is, i can’t make her go back. what the crap!

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  • Millie

    I can see her going both ways! First she was going clockwise, then she just changed. I thought it must have been rigged so I got my partner to try it and he could only see her going anti-clockwise. It seems to be just shifting my eyes for a second was enough to change directions.

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  • Brittanny

    Definitely see her moving both ways.

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  • http://janclifford.vemma.com Janet

    Very interesting – always thought that I was totally left brain but I can only see her going clockwise as can my partner!

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  • http://www.tinynerd.blogspot.com Kitty

    I’ve always seen it going clockwise but ever since I’ve “clicked” and saw it go anti-clockwise, I can’t seem to see it going clockwise anymore. ARGH! haha

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  • Jessica Turley

    First off I saw her clockwise! Looked away for a brief second and then she was going anti clockwise now somehow she is back to clockwise and I can’t get her to go back the other way! haha Its fascinating how optical allusions work!

    Love it <3

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  • Terry Kelly

    Well done, Sarah. This is a good explanation. It’s a lovely illusion but it’s got nothing to do with any supposed right brain/left brain split.

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Hey Terry, Moe’s explanation above is a good one!

    [Reply]

  • http://www.thegingersguidetolife.wordpress.com Anna

    The first time I looked at this it moved clockwise the second time it moved anti clockwise. After reading the meaning behind each and seeing it go clockwise I think I’m more of a ‘right brainer’.

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  • Tiffany

    I saw her going both ways…hm.

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  • Shelby

    So strange! The first time I looked at her, she was moving clockwise. After looking away, I returned to see that she had begun to turn counter-clockwise. And finally, after reading the rest of the article, I came back to find that she had resumed spinning clockwise. I think maybe I don’t favor one side of my brain.

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  • http://stores.ebay.com/voodoo-vintage-clothing-boutique Mollie

    If you focus on the shoulders it makes her face forward the entire time and just bob back and forth, or maybe I’m crazy.

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  • http://squidoo.com/aurpera aurpera

    This is obviously a trick. She keeps changing her direction from time to time. Truth is, all of us can think with both sides of our brain. But some people are largely left-brained and some are largely right-brained. I’m left-brained. I found it with a personality test.

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  • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

    I cant understand how someone can see the dancer turning anti clockwise. Very interesting. I believe the left-brain-right-brain notion has been manipulated and has served to be an excuse for people to become lazy. Check out the article I wrote on the subject if you’re interested in my point of view.

    The Left-Brain-Right-Brain Misconception: http://bit.ly/gj00sN

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  • JJ

    Umm…isn’t that girl just keep spinning left and right randomly?
    Try inviting friends to look at it with you at the same time. Maybe they all will have left/right brain same as you. ;)

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  • http://mrmathew1963.blogspot.com mrmathew1963

    Firstly, I do like your blog Sarah, it’s simple but earthly.
    The lady turns randomly in both directions for me, I have no control!!
    At times the lady spins just from side to side if I focus on her foot & try not to analyse & enjoy the moment.

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  • http://muninandhugin.wordpress.com munin_and_hugin

    Wow! At first I saw her going counter-clockwise and thought there was no way I could make it switch. But after stopping and looking out of the corner of my eye she does! As soon as I look at her straight on again it’s back to counter-clockwise. Pretty cool!

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  • http://mrmathew1963.blogspot.com Mathew

    This is cool stuff, it’s mostly rotating anticlockwise for me but now & again it’s just flipping from side to side. Love Mat

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  • Bron

    When I first looked, it was anti clockwise then i started to read and notices her change direction to clockwise. But that makes sense for me – I work in a very analytical job that focus on facts/deductions, but at heart/outside work I am quite creative, emotionally driven, imaginative. Fun :)

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