The Spinning Dancer Optical Illusion

  • Posted on: 26 January 2009
  • By: mokshalom

I received an email sharing the spinning dancer optical illusion (also called the "spinning lady"). Supposedly, the way the dancer "spins" tells you whether you favor your right or left brain. If she spins clockwise, you supposedly favor the right brain and if she spins counterclockwise, then you supposedly favor the left brain.

Scienceline offers an excellent analysis as to why the left brain/right brain delineation may be an oversimplification:

If the test sounds flawed, that’s not just because one shouldn’t use spinning dancers to characterize their brain strengths. Rather, the test is coming up inaccurate because it provides a crude view of the “lateralization of brain function,” or the concept that each side of the human brain specializes in certain mental activities.

...while the typical person might lean more heavily on one hemisphere or the other to do mental tasks necessary for math calculation, the brightest among us can more fully integrate both hemispheres of the brain.

The idea that emotion processing only occurs in the right brain hemisphere and fact processing in the left is also misleading. Brain imaging studies have showed that people processed emotion using small parts of both brain hemispheres.

I found for myself that the spinning lady sometimes spun right when I looked, and other times spun left.

What's even more interesting to me was the discovery of one of the commenters on Scienceline, who found that she could flip the spin instantly by tapping her fingers:

If you want to make her switch directions try to touch your thumb to each of your 4 fingers in order back and forth QUICKLY & watch her spin. Now try it on the other hand. I was bored and can make her turn almost instantaneously doing this….cool distraction from grading my Calculus papers with my Left hand..haha

I tried this myself and with some experimenting found that tapping my fingers does indeed change the spin, though sometimes I have to tap quickly and randomly. The finger tapping reminded me of some of the meditations performed in Kundalini Yoga, where you alternative pressing the thumb to certain fingers to stimulate the nerves and brain.

I then tried tapping other acupressure points with EFT using the phrase "the dancer is spinning in the opposite direction" and she'd flip in front of my eyes.

I am guessing that stimulating certain acupressure points activates different areas of the brain, which is why tapping can change the dancer's direction.

Try it, and post your results here!

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