This face optical illusion might just be the freakiest we've seen

Optical illusion faces
(Image credit: Tangen Lab)

Every time we post a new optical illusion, we think we've seen them all. From rotating horses to colour photos that are actually black-and-white, it feels like there can't possibly be anything left to bend, boggle and/or blow our minds. Well, guess what: here's another! 

Doing the rounds on TikTok right now is an illusion known as the 'Flashed face distortion effect', which, in simple terms, makes faces look like terrifying gargoyles. Like all the best optical illusions, it's a little bit freaky. 


♬ original sound - Steve Rathje - Psychology

Shared by @StevePsychology on the social media platform (above), the illusion requires the viewer to stare at a cross placed between two faces. As long as you don't look directly at said faces, they'll soon begin to look wildly distorted in your peripheral vision. And for good measure, it's a bunch of not-so-aesthetically-challenged celebrities whose faces have been selected for the gargoyle treatment.

According to Wikipedia, flashed face distortion was a phenomenon discovered entirely by accident. Researcher Matthew Thomson explains, "An undergraduate student, was working alone in the lab on a set of faces for one of his experiments. He aligned a set of faces at the eyes and started to skim through them. After a few seconds, he noticed that some of the faces began to appear highly deformed and grotesque." And it's still not entirely understood exactly how the illusion works.

The effect was first discovered in 2012, but it's still blowing minds. "The longer you look, the more exaggerated it gets!" One TikTokker responds to @StevePsychology's video, while another adds, "The brain is awesome. completely amazing."

From rotating horses to faces hiding in paintings, we've seen all manner of baffling illusions lately. Want to create your own? Check out our guide on how to download Photoshop. Or to harness the power of AI, learn how to use DALL·E 2.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.