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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020

Pretty ugly: The weird illusion that makes celebs unattractive

“The Flashed Face Distortion Effect” was accidentally discovered during an experiment in an Australian university…

Looks fine, right? Watch the video...
Looks fine, right? Watch the video...
Image: Still from TangenCognitionLab via

THIS IS THE kind of science we can engage with – the type that makes us feel better about ourselves. Or at least better about ourselves in relation to celebrities.

Matthew B Thompson, a Fulbright Scholar at University of California in Los Angeles and an academic at the University of Queensland in Australia, presented this unusual illusion at a Florida conference last week. “When Pretty Girls Turn Ugly: The Flashed Face Distortion Effect” took second prize at the Best Illusion of the Year contest.

An undergraduate student of Thompson’s called Sean Murphy noted the distortion when prepping a completely separate experiment. As Thompson writes on his own website:

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. He looked at the especially ugly faces individually, but each of them appeared normal or even attractive. We called it the “Flashed Face Distortion Effect” and wanted to share it with the world, so we put it on YouTube.

And here it is. Bear with it for a few seconds – the distorti0ns will soon become very powerful:

(via TangenCognitionLab/

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