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Spinning Ballerina Illusion

spinning silhouette dancer optical illusion

I love this one. Which direction is our gal spinning: clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Look closely. You’ll initially see her on her left foot spinning clockwise, or on her right foot spinning counter-clockwise. Look again. Try to mentally change the direction. Ride that line and see if you can control what you see. If you find it difficult to reverse the direction of her spin, concentrate on switching her feet.

Upon careful observation of her shadow, you’ll see that she is in fact on her left foot, spinning clockwise. :)

For a frame-by-frame analysis, check out this.

Source: kisrael

For a feline twist on this classic, check out the Spinning Cat Illusion.

35 comments… add one

  • mike June 25, 2007, 6:55 pm

    hmmm… i immediately see spinning on left foot, clockwise.

  • pirco June 26, 2007, 10:30 am

    wow. trippy. a good way to see her “switch feet” is to watch her from the very corner of your eye. if you look really far to the right – with her image in the very corner of your eye, you might see her spin the other way!

    problem is: now I can’t “make” here spin the right way again!!

    wow!!

  • pirco June 26, 2007, 10:31 am

    oh, and – yes – THINK that she is spinning counter-clock wise.

  • Luke June 26, 2007, 10:37 pm

    This should be categorized under Illusions: Expert Level

  • Ben Jahn June 26, 2007, 10:43 pm

    Jace,

    I effin love you man. I feel like my IQ is 10 pts higher since I started looking at your blog every day…

    xoxo

  • Uri Kalish September 15, 2007, 8:57 am

    This is MY theory:

    It’s just a shadow. You can’t really tell if the image is facing forward or backward, but since we are used to people looking at us, our first impression is that the dancer is looking at us. The dancer’s leg is moving left, stops, right, stops etc. If on the split-second your eyes saw the image, the dancer’s leg was moving left – you would think that she was spinning clockwise. If it was moving right – you would think that she was spinning counter-clockwise. From that point, your brain had already decided which direction the dancer was spinning and it would be very difficult to change your mind without looking away. It is about the exact split-second your eyes first saw the image.

    How’s my theory?

  • jaced.com September 15, 2007, 2:30 pm

    @Uri: I don’t think anybody would disagree with you. The silhouette of the girl only gives us two dimensions (x- and y-axes). The third dimension, on the z-axis, is subjective.

  • jaced.com October 11, 2007, 10:35 am

    An interesting observation posted on the Herald Sun:

    THE Right Brain vs Left Brain test … do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

    If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

    Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

    LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
    uses logic
    detail oriented
    facts rule
    words and language
    present and past
    math and science
    can comprehend
    knowing
    acknowledges
    order/pattern perception
    knows object name
    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

  • Andrew July 1, 2008, 2:53 pm

    If you want to change it you have to stare at the feet and I mean the the real one anf the one on the ground that is a shawdow to change it between the two but you need to consin trait I am only 11 and I can do it
    I got permission dont worry

  • emily July 1, 2008, 4:53 pm

    how cooool is this i love this test its spookyyyyyyyyy!

  • Anna July 29, 2008, 1:41 am

    Actually, you can switch the direction you perceive the shadow to be spinning in as well. Try to see her spin in the opposite direction of her shadow – that’s my favourite.

  • Ben Wood November 20, 2008, 10:08 am

    this picture took me into a loop for a few secs when i first saw it 2 years ago and i didnt know how to change the direction. I tried for 3 days looking at it and trying to but always failed. Now that im 16 and i FINALLY found it again i can do it. What i do is when her feet become one when they reach the “12 o’clock” position i think of her spinning counter-clockwise or clockwise, whatever direction i choose and now i can do it when ever i wish

  • Steve Smith March 2, 2009, 10:05 pm

    The shadow of the outside foot does not indicate clockwise direction. When the shadow appears, that’s when the foot is AWAY from the observer. When the shadow disappears, the foot is toward the observer. That can only happen in a counterclockwise movement. If it was a REFLECTION, it might work as clockwise; but not a shadow. She looks good either way!

  • CyberG4 October 10, 2009, 3:07 pm

    As Steve Smith pointed out, what you are stating as the “actual” direction she is rotating is incorrect. She is spinning counter-clockwise on her right foot.
    How you can tell is based on that you can see the shadow enter the bottom of the frame and move from right to left. This is the point where the foot is further back in 3D space, allowing the shadow to be further back in 3D space (thus higher in the 2D image). As the foot comes forward the shadow moves forward in 3D space, (moving down in the 2D image), and moves out of frame. Thus the ballerina is spinning on her right foot, counterclockwise.

  • LamiaAmos February 5, 2010, 5:57 pm

    its spinning both for me, but when u look closely at the torso, u can see that she is shirtless

  • guinness April 24, 2010, 3:40 pm

    I’m stuck in her spinning clockwise and then she switches to counter-clockwise never completing a turn… this is awesome!

  • me. May 20, 2010, 5:36 pm

    i first thought that she was spinning clockwise and when i concentrated on her shadow the direction seemed to change.

  • Andrew May 29, 2010, 3:15 pm

    Is it bad that the first thing I noticed is that whoever created the original 3D model gave her very distinct nipples?

  • Joe June 4, 2010, 2:05 am

    It doesn’t look like she’s spinning either direction. It looks like she’s on a swivel turning back and forth.

  • Marjorie June 7, 2010, 6:35 am

    When I look away or get distracted away from the image like reading the caption underneath it…thats when she spins the other way. I look away again and shes spinning right again. It gives me a headache. :P

  • Toothfairy June 17, 2010, 3:27 pm

    haha I’ve got it so she keeps swapping legs over and over with doing a complete rotation, just imagine her leg going behind her leg each time and not in front of it.

  • Tessa June 18, 2010, 9:50 pm

    I can make her go either way I want without looking away or blinking, it’s sooo awesome. All I do is unfocus my eyes when her outstretched leg is on one side, and lean my head in the opposite direction a little and she moves that way. I focus my eyes on her again and when her leg touches the other side I unfocus and repeat the process, I can make it look like she doesn’t do a full rotation at all if I want. I love this thing hehe.

  • T-Killah July 13, 2010, 2:20 am

    she was spinning right at first, but i cant see it that way anymore :’(

  • chuck July 14, 2010, 11:51 pm

    took a few tries but i gotter….

    looks like she’s got a nice body… probably a butterface though

  • mark wilcox July 25, 2010, 10:50 am

    If you cover up the shadows with your hand it is much easier to make her spin whichever way you want. Looking straight on usually makes it clockwise where out of the corner of your eye makes it counterclockwise.

  • Vishvak July 31, 2010, 8:21 pm

    Strange, for me she is going both ways.

  • rui August 4, 2010, 6:16 am

    The best way to “switch” direction (control your brain/switch from left to right hemisphere): concentrate on her supporting feet shadow and when it becomes “smaller” imagine it rotating the other way. You can make her turn side to side making only half turn!

  • me September 23, 2010, 10:39 pm

    I hate how left-brained I am!

  • paisley November 25, 2010, 6:47 am

    every 14 rotations, she switches directions. it’s a loop.

  • anonymous January 10, 2011, 2:43 am

    try looking at just the legs. scroll down the screen till you can only see the legs. You get an entirely different illusion, where the leg swings left and right.

  • ToxicDL March 11, 2011, 12:37 pm

    She isn’t, in fact, spinning at all. your mind MAKES you think she is spinning. Since it is only a silhouette you cannot see which arm is crossing over the body, or which arm is going behind the body. If you focus long enough, you’ll notice that all she is doing is swinging her leg back and forth. It is basically an image flipping back and forth, creating the illusion of spinning. This is why the mind can see both ways of spinning, because it imagined the arms crossing over or behind the body- because that’s what we see in reality. Our left brain says “She has to be spinning, there’s no way she isn’t” you can force yourself to see both ways, and even change the direction. (Because your mind IS changeable, just as you can make yourself sick, or you can overcome fears) So the answer is: she isn’t spinning at all! :)

  • Coco35840 June 24, 2011, 1:53 pm

    Well I can make her go anyway i want when i want to, all you do is focus really hard on “make her go left/right” in your mind real hard, it work really good for me

  • Ocean November 20, 2011, 8:26 pm

    Kay, all I can see is an animation that first turns on (or vica versa) left foot clockwise then right foot counterclockwise. My mind changes nothing. The animation changes on its own.

  • ??? April 22, 2012, 9:32 am

    i can see her spinning both ways and just wagging her foot back and forth

  • Dylan June 14, 2012, 1:37 pm

    I don’t see the feet I actually see her go to the right then go back to the left.

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