Reason as the Leading Motive

This Girl Won’t Stop Dancing in My Brain

Posted by Jerry on October 31, 2007

This is the best illusion I have seen so far: the best because I still haven’t figured out how to be “disillusioned” of the illusion. Okay, too cryptic?

The illusion is of a girl twirling around in a circular motion. People who use more of the right side of their brain will see the girl turning clockwise, and those who use more of their left side of the brain will see the girl twirling counter-clockwise. Apparently, if you focus hard enough, you can switch the direction of her twirl.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been staring it at for far too long than is healthy for a gay man to be staring at a dancing woman, and I can’t get her to flip the direction of her twirl in my brain! What is particularly distracting to me–believe it or not–are her breasts! I keep taking my cues of her spatio-temporal position by focusing on her breasts to get a sense of the direction in which her body is turning. Her breasts also serve as the indicator of when she is directly “facing” me or when her back is turned toward me.

I want to specifically hear from the left-brained people: did you really see the girl twirling counter-clockwise when you first saw her?

Next, I want to know if anyone was able to actually switch her direction: Was it effortless? Easy? How did you manage it? Can you sustain any one direction for a while by sheer will? I know that once the brain “knows” the trick of an illusion, it’s hard to get it fooled again for too long.

According to the site, here are the left and right brain functions:

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

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

[h/t: Rational Jenn]

28 Responses to “This Girl Won’t Stop Dancing in My Brain”

  1. Ergo said

    AAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaar!!!! I finally got it! I finally was able to switch her twirling from clockwise to anti-clockwise!! DAMN! It took me sooooo long! It is a freaky experience!

  2. Roger said

    I first saw clockwise. I couldn’t get her to switch while staring directly at her for a few seconds. I glanced quickly at the article to the left, and, when I returned my eyes to her, she was going counter-clockwise. I found that I could almost switch her at will by glancing away while still keeping her in my peripheral vision. Every time I glanced away for a sec, she switched. In fact, it was easier for me to switch her back and forth while NOT looking directly at her, but still keeping her in my field of vision. It did, however, take more mental effort to switch her from clockwise to counter-clockwise than the other way around.

    Interesting. I guess I’m right-brained (I think I could have told you that).

  3. Isn’t that wild? I got her to switch back and forth by staring at the foot that was hopping on the ground. I switched her so many times and so quickly that I got a headache. It amazes me that someone came up with that.

  4. Ergo said

    Rational Jenn,

    That’s exactly how i managed to get her to twirl the other way… I scrolled down to her feet and just focused on the movement of the feet.

    I realized that once you become saliently conscious of the fact that what you are watching is *not* really three dimensional but only that you are getting an *illusion* of three-dimensional motion, then your brain sort of becomes receptive to making the switch. In other words, once I told myself, “okay focus on her movement along a 2-dimensional plane (because that’s exactly what it is) and see how her feet pretty much moves like a pendulum from side to side.” Having primed myself in that way, my brain was willing to add a perception of 3D movement according to my sheer will, and switch back and forth.

    Interestingly, it’s so Kantian! 😉 Of course, the caveat being I was later able to identify, control, and manipulate the categories being imposed by my consciousness.

  5. OK, so I totally flipped her from counterclockwise to clockwise, but the way I did it was by watching the very tip of her vertical foot, where the shadow could hardly interrupt the logical way she’s turning. It was weird, her body then seemed to keep turning counterclockwise, but her LEG was turning clockwise. So then the BODY suddenly matched the leg, and she started turning CLOCKWISE. So then I looked at the shadow of her diagonal leg, and that flipped her right back!

    I think it’s all about the shadow. It’s important. If you ignore the shadow, the direction can be flipped.

  6. rambodoc said

    “focusing on her breasts”

    It just goes to show that a woman’s breast is what makes the world go around!

  7. Ergo said


    The shadow thing isn’t working for me. I tried and tried. I always start out by seeing the girl twirling in the direction my dominant side of the brain (apparently my right side) wants her to. Then, it takes me great effort and focus to get her to switch (or get my left side of the brain to weigh in). Once I get that flip, then I can keep the image steadily twirling in that direction for a while.

    Upon closer inspection of the movements of the figure, I realized that the image is animated in such a way that the girl does half a twirl in one direction and then a half twirl in another direction: a half twirl from left to right followed by a half twirl from right to left.

    Your brain notices either one of those half twirl movements (depending on your brain’s directional preference) and “completes” the twirl for the girl, because that is the normal state of affairs in the case of a real twirling girl. This “completing” of directional motion (or ignoring of the opposing motion) is one of the five principles of gestalt brain psychology.

  8. John Kim said

    I wonder if this thing is a fake, if she is programmed to change at certain intervals. I have seen her change directions a few times when I wasn’t trying anything. It seems totally arbitrary and random to me. Did anyone else have this experience?

  9. Tim R said

    Cool illusion.
    I can get her to switch directions, but not immediately. Quite tricky.

  10. Ergo said


    I’m certain it’s not a fake. Several times I would get her to switch and then–if my “grip” wasn’t strong enough–she would switch back to her (or my brain’s) preferred direction. This has happened over split-second intervals as well as over several seconds, depending on how long my brain can forcibly maintain control on the direction of her twirl.

    I think the very point of the illusion is to show you how you are often not explicitly conscious of the way in which you perceive certain things, hence the feeling of seeing her switch directions even when you don’t seem to be “doing” anything to make it happen.

  11. Charl said

    Ok, left-handed person here!

    When I first looked, she was TOTALLY moving clockwise! A few seconds later, I scrolled down to read the right-brain functions description, which would accordingly apply to me. I could only see her feet now—annnnd…she was moving COUNTER-effing-clockwise! But only about for about 3 seconds; as I was gaping at the pic, she sort of jerked and went back to dancing clockwise. I’m now gonna go back and focus and see if I can get her to switch. Whoa.

    PS: Btw, isn’t it that left-handed people use the right side of their brain more often? This thing must be accurate, man.

  12. Pink Imp said

    I think the movement is coded to change at frequent intervals. You can get it timed.

    From a non-CS stand, I kept seeing her spin counter clockwise and clockwise without any intent or will. she just spun two ways for me. does that make me weird now? 😦

  13. Pink Imp said


    Right side:

    spatial perception
    knows object function

    spatial: i am working on a spatio temporal data mining project
    object function: hell yea! i take an object-oriented course and program primarily in Java, which, dear children, uses objects and object-based functions..


  14. Pink Imp said

    Ok. i ain’t weird a person named John Kim experienced that too. i wonder if he is CS too..

  15. Apple said

    I dispute this left-right brain scheme. All of your self-reports are just wishful “functions” you want to acquire.

  16. Vijay said

    I dont know whether you guys are serious about your discussion about LEFT BRAIN — RIGHT BRAIN, in relation to the “Dancing Lady”, But I assume that you are and opine accordingly;

    According to me, this has NOTHING to do with how our brain functions. It is basically a good Optical Illusion. If you guys are interested in seeing more of the same kind then please GOOGLE “fantastic optical images” OR “fantastic optical illusions”. There are some breath taking images and videos.

    A HINT: To switch the direction of the lady, it is something you can LEARN. Observe how in the beginning you only see her rotate Clockwise. But the more you see and analyse, at some time you will see her go Anti Clock wise. And further more you will be able to switch her direction at will. If it is LEFT or RIGHT Brain that has a role to play, then what happens once you know the trick to switch the direction in relation to the FIRST time you saw the image (When it was virtually always clockwise)?


  17. Vijay said

    Just to make my point more effectively;


  18. D.J.R. said

    It is not programmed to switch, I’ve done with with another person with me. She had it going left (even put her finger on the monitor and traced it while the dancer was turning the exact opposite for me!). She had no previous experience with the illusion and is still pretty freaked out about it. And possibly mad that I commented about her.

    So all and all awesome find. Very interesting.

  19. Cafedog said

    ergo this is great find!!
    she was dancing clockwise until i read about the right/left brain functions. with out trying she switched counter clockwise. She has danced this way ever since.

    I love these, as well as the gestalt psychology visual perception illusions.

  20. This is quite curious. And, obviously, my dominant side seems to be the right one, too.

  21. After reading Vijay’s comment and blog entry, I have to say: Simply amazing.

  22. Ergo said

    Yea, the whole business of illusions is amazing. I agree with Vijay that unless you have a severed corpus collosum, you pretty much use both sides of your brain. I think he misunderstood our (my) comments that our brains do have selective dominance for certain tasks.

    Interestingly, how does one answer the question, in which direction is the girl *objectively* twirling? Is that even possible to answer? And what degree of certainty can we have about the answer?

  23. Well… First of all, we should answer the question, whether we really see her twirling in one direction or the other, or whether that is just out interpretation of what we perceive.

  24. Cafedog said

    sometimes she is dancing clockwise at fist glance… when my eyes move to read the text on right/left brain she suddenly changes direction…Is this the stimulation of my eyes focusing…or because my brain is more active when i begin to read and interprete text?

  25. Ray said

    This is more a thing of personal habits.
    Please don’t take this left brain/right brain and what abilities you should have according to that analysis too serious!

    There you have the original incl. an explanation:

  26. Ergo said

    Ray, thanks for the link. Very cool stuff there. I played around with the “switching” of the twirl, and it was a fascinating experience to have some part of my brain saying “oh my god, some part of me is inventing this illusion, and then another part of me is switching the direction of this illusion… and this part of me is utterly fascinated!” 🙂

    I’m not sure what kind of “personal habits” you think contribute to differences in the twirling perception. What I find most interesting about this illusion is that it validates the axiomatic nature of our senses, and that our consciousness is pretty potent at identifying illusions from reality, without diminishing the enchantment of the illusion.

  27. Steve said

    I can see her turning in both directions if I try to, however, she is actually only turning clockwise. The counter-clockwise turning is an optical illusion and difficult to see because the image is faulty.
    If you observe her turning in a clockwise direction, her right leg is off the ground, leading the turn with the left leg pivoting on the left foot – correctly.
    If you try to observe her turning counter clockwise, her left leg is off the ground, leading the turn, but the image is not able to process the pivoting of the right leg correctly.
    This is why it is difficult to hold in your vision because your mind knows it is not correct, not because you are right brained. If you look at just the lower half of the legs it is very easy to see the problem with the counter-clockwise turning.

  28. Austin said

    If you get two people in the room who see it spinning opposite directions and each one says front when the lady is facing them, each participant says ‘front’ out of phase. So when clockwise joe sees her face in the front and hair in the back, the head will be tilted to the left. But counter-clock jane sees the back of the lady and her head tilted to the right at the same instant in time.

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