The Thatcher Effect Is Going Viral On TikTok

Updated 1 minute ago. Posted 33 minutes ago

“This is thought to happen because our brains are so finely tuned to recognizing faces in the upright position,” explained Dr. Julie Smith.

London-based clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Smith recently shared a series of unsettling photos that demonstrate something called the Thatcher Effect. Her video went mega-viral with over 33 million views:

BuzzFeed spoke to Dr. Smith, who explained what the Thatcher Effect — also known as the Thatcher Illusion — is. “It is a phenomenon in which changes in facial features that are very obvious in an upright face are much more difficult to identify when the face is upside down.”

Dr. Smith said that the photographs are inverted so that the eyes and mouth are vertically flipped. “Those changes seem obvious when we look at the photograph the right way up. But, when it is presented upside down, we don’t notice anything is wrong,” she added.

“The Thatcher Effect was first demonstrated by Professor of Psychology Peter Thompson in 1980. In the original study, he used pictures of the British Prime Minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, which is why he termed it the Thatcher Effect,” she said.

“This is thought to happen because our brains are so finely tuned to recognizing faces in the upright position. This enables us to identify many faces that are very similar as unique individuals very easily. It has been hypothesized that the cognitive processes involved in face recognition rely as much on the structural relationship between features as the features themselves. For example, the configuration between eyes, nose, and mouth,” she explained.

Dr. Smith said the Thatcher Effect is a fun illusion to share with your friends. “As a psychologist, I am fascinated by psychology and I have loved sharing that fascination in a fun way with people all around the world.” And it is evident that people are interested in what she is sharing! Her recent illusion of a spinning silhouette has over 7 million views:

To see more of Dr. Smith’s psychology content, you can follow her on TikTok or Instagram.

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