The Turn Test

The image shows the silhouette of a woman turning round and round. (She seems to be naked, but I'd say it's safe for work.) The text says:
Which way is the woman turning? Clockwise or anticlockwise? After a while, you will be amazed to find that not everyone will agree about which way she is turning! Even more amazingly, some people find that when they ask her, in their mind, to "change", the woman in the image responds by changing direction!

I stared at the spinning woman for a while, but I could only see her turning clockwise. I kept asking her in my mind to change direction, but she wouldn't. Can other people actually see her turn anti-clockwise? Apparently so. One guy analyzed the image frame by frame to find out how the illusion works. But I'm not seeing it.

In fact, I'm thinking it might be a joke designed to get people to stare at the image for hours, desperately trying to will the woman to change direction. But she never will. (Thanks, Nirmala)


Posted on Tue Apr 08, 2008


The key to this is actually not to stare at the woman... If you look to the upper left of the grey box she will dance in one direction... if you stare to the upper right of the grey box she should change direction...

Should... change direction...
Sometimes it takes a while for my brain to kick into gear to do it...

...And then, once you get the hang of it, you can go back and forth, staring from right to left, making her change back and forth.
Posted by Puck  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  12:16 AM
She 'changed direction' for me very quickly. At first I thought it might be a faked illusion - it took the guy who did the frame-by-frame analysis to convince me that it was definitely real.
Posted by outeast  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  01:39 AM
Okay, I bit. I figured out how to make this "illusion" work EVERY time!!! Rather than focusing on the image and trying to analyze exactly WHY it won't change directions for you, try this... Notice how, as the character rotates, it's foot "on the floor" seems to rise, or draw further away from it's shadow as it rotates? If you focus your attention MORE so on the shadows movements of BOTH feet, the image WILL shift directions in your peripheral field of vision. Don't try to focus on the character while it rotates CCW, because as soon as you do, it will change directions again... I guess that's what they call "asking her, in your mind, to change directions"...
Posted by Christopher  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  02:31 AM
Alex, we had a lengthy discussion of this turning image on the forum a few months ago:

Initially I saw her turn anticlockwise but after a few tries I can see her turn both clockwise or anti-clockwise.
Posted by LaMa  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  03:57 AM
When I first saw this picture I immediately pulled it apart to see how it worked! I find that if I concentrate on the foot that touches the ground I can change the direction at will. At the moment the foot disappears behind the leg, I imagine the foot pointing in front instead and voila, the woman changes direction! I can now get her to sway back and forth instead of a full turn which proves I have waaay too much time on my hands 😊
Posted by SamCalvin  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  04:11 AM
It's a visual trick.
The explanation for this phenomenon is to be found here:
Posted by Dennis Rijnvis  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  05:26 AM
I can make her change at will. It helps if you cover up her body and look at her feet. Then you can sort of see a "swinging" motion instead of a "rotating" one, and it makes it easier to change her.

The best proof I have for you that this is for real: Two of my coworkers looked at it AT THE SAME TIME, and had an argument about which way she was turning, each convinced that the other was mistaken. One of the coworkers is a theatre director (right brained) and the other puts numbers in a computer all day (left brained).
Posted by Angela  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  06:37 AM
This works for me. I can make it switch direction just by shifting my view back and forth. Supposedly people that can make this work can access both hemisphere's of their brain easier. I'm not sure if that's true or not but works for me anyway.
Posted by Justin  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  07:15 AM
Supposedly people that can make this work can access both hemisphere's of their brain easier

I'm pretty sure most right brain/ left brain claims are rubbish.
Posted by outeast  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  07:31 AM
Ohh look: searching ScienceBlogs for "right left brain" immediately brings up a post exploding just this myth... with the concrete example of claims made about this very illusion!
Posted by outeast  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  07:33 AM
When I first looked she was going counter-clockwise. I tried to make her spin clockwise unsuccessfully. I then closed my eyes and imagined her spinning clockwise. When I opened my eyes she then appeared to be spinning clockwise. Not a hoax just an optical illusion.
Posted by Shamus  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  07:34 AM
I was staring at it thinking "it's so obvious that she's turning clockwise that it must be a hoax" and then suddenly I realised she was turning anti-clockwise and I couldn't visualise it any other way, try as I might.

It reminded me a little of satellite photographs of the moon or mars. For some reason, valleys always appear to be hills when I first see such images and I have to physically concentrate for a moment until I can see what's actually there. Maybe I'm just prone to that kind of thing!
Posted by Rory Turf  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  07:38 AM
One critical issue is the apparent size of the leg that is raised up. One of the times when it crosses the upright leg it seems smaller ( = shorter & thinner), the other time it seems larger. The former tends to be seen as a raised leg passing _behind_ the other, the latter as a raised leg passing _in front_.
I believe this to be crucial to the perceived direction of spin.
Posted by Ronald Kyrmse  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  07:38 AM
Trying Puck's suggest of looking at the upper left corner and not focusing hard I can get her to turn anticlockwise. I can even keep this for a few seconds as I move my view to her proper, but I lose it quickly and she starts turning clockwise again.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  10:11 AM
Okay, after playing some more I found my key turning point is when her leg is all the way left. Even when looking directly at her I can make her reverse when she hits that point, and hold it for a bit. I even found I can see her turning back and forth without ever spinning all the way around.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  10:14 AM
It's a cycling animated gif! It's not a mental illusion, it's the animation being reversed! Count the revolutions ... don't think about it, just count. After about 15 or so revolutions, it will switch directions. Period. None of this "If I think hard enough, I can make it change directions." GEEZ, people, this should have been posted on the 1st!
Posted by Corwin, The Master Physicist  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  10:46 AM
No, Corwin, you're wrong. There is no pattern. I can make it change either direction after just a few rotations.

I dind't think it was possible when I first looked at it either then lo and behold, I went back after reading some of the comments and tried the peripheral glance thing and there you go. it does work! Weird.
Posted by Jen  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  11:38 AM
When I was first sent this via email, I figured it was just a gag, as I saw the figure move both directions with no problem. I tried looking at it again, just now, and counting the revolutions, but it changed back and forth, directionally, in less than 15 turns (sometimes just a couple). The person who sent me the image originally could only see it move in one direction. I've always been able to see both figures in those pictures where one can see two different images, very easily. Is it a perception ability? Does wearing glasses make a difference I wonder (I've worn mine since I was very young)?
Posted by redraven  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  02:19 PM
As I said before, I've witnessed two people seeing it turn in OPPOSITE directions AT THE SAME TIME. Neither of them could get it to change direction, and I could. Clearly, it is NOT a cycling animated gif.
Posted by Angela  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  02:26 PM
another way to think about this is consider what optical illusions do. I've seen this spinning girl going both ways, so I know it works.

If you've ever been in a car, driving down the road alongside another car going at the same or similar speed, have you ever looked at the hub on the wheel? If you look at the spokes, you'll often see them seemingly rotating in the OPPOSITE direction to what the wheel is moving - though this would be physically impossible.

I know it's not exactly the same thing - but it does go to show that your brain will trick you sometimes.
Posted by sarahearth  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  02:41 PM
Here's the best explanation:

Also watch his altered version of the image:

This one has three dancers, all based on the original. The one on the left has lines added to emphasize the clockwise view, and the one on the right has lines added to emphasize the counter-clockwise view. The middle one is the original.

The cool thing is that when you don't focus on one dancer in particular, they all sync up. If I focus on the left one, they all switch to clockwise, and if I focus on the right one, they all turn the other way...
Posted by Michael Moncur  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  05:07 PM
Or... you could just look to her left...
...and then look to her right...
..and bingo - She changes directions depending on which side you're focusing on...

...Like I said back at the veeeery beginning.
Posted by Puck  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  05:20 PM
Yeah, it actually works....I notice the change if you look at her feet twirling, then suddenly it'll switch on ya

it's a trippy little deal
Posted by Josh  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  05:59 PM
When I watched the legs, my brain wanted to see it go in the other direction, but it just didn't click in for me.
Not the greatest illusion.
Posted by DJ_Canada  on  Wed Apr 09, 2008  at  08:07 PM
This is really just an excuse for staring at a naked woman for ages, isn't it?
Posted by Nona  on  Thu Apr 10, 2008  at  05:37 AM
The first time I ever saw it, I couldn't even get her to spin a revolution. Her leg just kept bouncing back and forth every time it hit the "wall" (ie, it bounced from the left to the right, and vice versa.) I thought more people would see it like that, but apparently I'm just a weirdo.

Anyway, after I stared for a while, now I can make her spin, and I can change her direction easily at will.
Posted by Sakano  on  Thu Apr 10, 2008  at  02:06 PM
I am able to get this lovely lady to reverse direction by concentrating on her foot shadow and willing it to reverse. By doing this I will sometimes see her body spinning in one direction and her shadow in the opposite direction.
Posted by rikitara  on  Thu Apr 10, 2008  at  06:57 PM
My boyfriend and I have found that while watching her spin, if you think of a mathmatical problem, she will spin one way and if you then think of something more creative like a painting or an old memory, she will spin in the other direction and you can switch her spinning back and forth this way. This is supposed to work because it forces you to access the different hemispheres of your brain that other posters have mentioned.
Posted by Talen  on  Fri Apr 11, 2008  at  06:28 AM
Adding to my earlier comment... I've noticed that if I just let my brain do it's thing and look at it how I would naturally see it (with her foot bouncing off the wall, rather than spinning around clockwise or counter-clockwise) there's something odd with her arms. One arm is bent, the other is straight. Every time she "bounces" the bent arm and the switched arm change sides. It looks unnatural and abrupt.
Posted by Sakano  on  Fri Apr 11, 2008  at  12:57 PM
It took me a moment, but it does work if you sort of soften your gaze.
Posted by Curtis  on  Fri Apr 11, 2008  at  01:04 PM
it didn't work for me the first 1 1/2 minutes or so, then she changed from going clockwise to anti-clockwise.

and then i couldn't change it back to clockwise.

Posted by grace  on  Sat Apr 12, 2008  at  11:34 PM
Look at her standing foot. Now say in your mind "left" and "right" as the foot turns. Now you can alternate directions as much as you want. the standing leg and foot is the key.
Posted by Tobester  on  Sun Apr 13, 2008  at  07:48 AM
By staring at her upperlegs, right when the space between them closes- it is impossible to tell which direction she is going, so at that point you can change which direction you want her to go.
Posted by Jackie  on  Sun Apr 13, 2008  at  11:08 AM
You were a little premature with your berating Corwin. You weren't the only one to ponder that the animation might be a looping gif. I tested this to see if it was a cycling gif as well. I watched it and counted out. The image never changed direction. It only changed direction if I looked away and then looked back. This wasn't time dependent. There is no rotation pattern except in Corwin's head. This kind of perceptual illusion is not anything new. Think of the Necker cube that seems to keep flipping it's perspective as you stare at it.
Posted by Shamus  on  Tue Apr 15, 2008  at  02:08 PM
I can reverse it on screen if I try but my husband sees her spin one way then the other, a rhythmic cycle of back and forth, back and forth.
Posted by WSL  on  Thu Apr 17, 2008  at  07:37 PM
This site explains it, and you can add eyes to help see it turn.
Posted by JorWat  on  Sun Apr 20, 2008  at  03:39 AM
I can see it both ways. The trick is to tell yourself that when her leg goes behind the other one, it's actually going in front. You can get it to the point where it looks like she is swinging back and forth.
Posted by Sarah  on  Fri May 09, 2008  at  01:25 PM
I would say hoax. When the image is turning clockwise, her right arm is bent. Then the image switches so that her left arm is bent and she is morning counterclockwise.
Posted by brittany  on  Wed May 14, 2008  at  09:09 AM
This illusion is an example of what is called the ambiguous motion effect, which is caused by an absence of depth cues. Your brain will attempt to make sense of this image by selecting a random direction that you will perceive the figure to be rotating in, although if you concentrate hard enough, you can change the perceived direction, or it can happen spontaneously. Most people probably perceive the image to be moving clockwise because of the position of her feet or arms, which make one direction look a little more natural than the other.
Posted by Jess  on  Wed May 21, 2008  at  01:57 AM
To me the key to making her change directions is watching the shadow of the uplifted foot. That shadow disappears as that foot moves "towards" you. So, as she rotates, if I watch for the shadow to appear on the right side of the screen, and then look up at her, she appears to be turning clockwise. If I watch for the shadow to disappear on the left side of the screen and then look up at her, she appears to turn counter-clockwise. My brain has adjusted to it well enough now that I can make her change direction EVERY time the shadow appears and disappears, therefore giving the illusion that she's not rotating at all, but switching direction back and forth while facing me.
Posted by FatRichie  on  Wed May 28, 2008  at  09:49 AM
I can't see her doing anything... is my brain broken? :-(
Posted by Money Safes  on  Wed Nov 25, 2009  at  06:58 AM
Watch her feet! When she's turning clockwise she's balancing on her left foot and when she's anti-clockwise then she's balancing on the right foot. The IQ being over 160 is BS.
Posted by Maggie  on  Sat Feb 12, 2011  at  04:29 PM
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