Optical Illusion “Busts” Bloody Mary Game
Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary..Bloody Mary…
That is the incantation that you are supposed to chant in front of a mirror if you want Bloody Mary to appear. It has been the highlight of many a Halloween party and children’s sleepover for decades.
However, before you summon Mary in all her variations or test your belief in the Bell Witch by saying an incantation in front of a mirror, science has to say a couple words on the matter and invites you to take a little visual test as well to prove it’s point.
Researcher Giovanni B Caputo of the University of Urbino in Italy published a paper in 2009 that sheds some light on the mysterious phenomenons people report while playing ‘mirror games’ like Bloody Mary. The paper: Strange Face in the Mirror Illusion, states that the facial images people have seen in dark bathrooms the world over has to do with the Troxler Effect.
The Troxler Effect is described as such by Wikipedia:
“Troxler’s fading or Troxler’s effect is a phenomenon of visual perception. When one fixates a particular point, after about 20 seconds or so, a stimulus away from the fixation point, in peripheral vision, will fade away and disappear. The effect is enhanced if the stimulus is small, is of low contrast or equiluminant, or is blurred. The effect is enhanced the further the stimulus is away from the fixation point.”
This Effect is demonstrated by the picture on the right. If you concentrate on the black cross in the middle of the picture, the pink circles will fade before your eyes…
Further evidence of the Troxler Effects powers on visual distortion was made by Po-Jang Hsieh and Peter Tse in 2006, when they discovered that the illusion could also mix closely placed colors in unforeseen ways as well.
The color mixing aspect is demonstrated by the picture below. Stare at the white dot in the center and the red and green bars will merge to make a third color.
All these optical illusions combine to make a pretty potent mixture for your mind to sort out when you were sent into your best friends bathroom when you were ten. The effect was enhanced by the low light in the bathroom or other darkly lit area, creating a lack of input for your brain.t.
This plus a good healthy dose of imagination can mean instant monster,as Caputo found out in his 2009 study, where fifty participants reported strange effects while staring into mirrors:
“At the end of a 10 min session of mirror
gazing, the participant was asked to write what he or she saw in the mirror.
The descriptions differed greatly across individuals and included:
(a) huge deformations of
one’s own face (reported by 66% of the fifty participants)
(b) a parent’s face with traits
changed (18%), of whom 8% were still alive and 10% were deceased;
(c) an unknown
(d) an archetypal face, such as that of an old woman, a child, or a portrait
of an ancestor (28%)
(e) an animal face such as that of a cat, pig, or lion (18%)
(f ) fantastical and monstrous beings (48%).”
So it appears the Bloody Mary is more illusion then monster. The various facial distortions are a result of the Troxler Effect, as well as your mind playing tricks on you.
Another great example pf simple facial distortion can be seen in this video, which is actually pretty creepy in itself.
So all together Now…
Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary…
To have some fun with this, I figured I’d ask anyone who happens to come across this article to do a (not well) controlled experiment. Go to a dimly lit room (a bathroom, if you want to be traditional) with a mirror. Stare at yourself in the mirror for a little under a minute and then vote in the poll below on what you saw. If your response is ‘other’, please be kind enough to tell us what monstrosity appeared to you in the comments section below.
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