Illusion Number 2: Legs

I have a question for you. Please let me know what you think 

“Are these legs shiny and oily or are they legs with white paint on them?”


When I first saw this photo, I immediately thought that these were some oiled up legs. However, on closer inspection, I also the paint streaks and now that is the dominant thing I see. 

According to experts as ascertained by Mark Molloy from the Daily Telegraph, the explanation is similar to that of the black and blue dress. 

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, a Clinical Adviser at the College of Optometrists explained to the Telegraph that “Metallic, wet or shiny surfaces reflect light in a unique way and our visual perceptual system has to spot clues in the reflected light in order to differentiate between shiny and matt, despite perhaps being the same apparent colour.”

“Vision scientists think that one of the important clues the brain uses to tell if a surface is wet or metallic is the skew of the spectral luminance; how much light is being reflected and where it is reflected from.”
“We use past experiences and our knowledge of objects to prejudice our interpretation of what we see, legs are more commonly wet and shiny, much less commonly covered in white paint,” Hardiman-McCartney added.

“In this case it may be the first time you have seen a pair of legs with white paint on them. The lack of focus on the skin, making the skin look like plastic and tight crop adds to the ambiguity. What room is the photo taken in?”
“There are markers and paints in the right of the image. The legs are matt without a diffuse specular reflection like you would expect if they were wet, so the white strip is not a highly skewed reflection of light, it is white paint, as the person who took the photo has confirmed.”

“Now try covering the pens and imagine the photograph is taken in a bathroom, do the legs now look wet?”

Credit: Mark Malloy of the Daily Telegraph. 

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11 thoughts on “Illusion Number 2: Legs

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