Just as the internet recovered from the Yanny and Laurel saga a new question is doing the rounds - who is wearing the heels in this picture? At first glance, the picture looks like two co-workers hugging in an office setting, but look closer and the question of who is actually who starts to emerge.
The photo under scrutiny shows two journalists from the Brazilian channel GloboNews. It was uploaded onto Instagram by Raphael Perachi and has since done the rounds through Reddit, Imgur and eventually Twitter where things got serious.
Twitter user cj Fentroy set the internet on fire - again- when he asked a question that appeared to be on everyone’s mind. Is that man wearing high heels?
And at first glance, it definitely looks like the male journalist is wearing heels and doing it well, but on closer inspection, we see this is actually a really good optical illusion.
The angle of the hug makes it hard to see exactly where one body and the other meet. But if you start with the body on the left, you can see a red checked shirt that definitely belongs to the male face.
Illusion tricks brain with shadows
Once you have convinced your mind that is true then it’s easier to tell that the body on the left is wearing, white pants, a blue shirt, has long hair and those high heels. And now you can clearly see what is actually happening - it seems very weird you could have been convinced in the first place, as the woman's head would have been at a totally uncomfortable angle for a person sitting down.
One Twitter user points out, the thing that makes it seem like the man is wearing the heels is the dark patch directly behind his head that makes it look like it's leading in to the collar of the blue shirt. Like the best optical illusions, this one is so disarming because it is so simple.
Illusions not always universal
Scientists are continually researching what exactly happens inside our brains when we are confronted with these kinds of images. Some studies show that not all optical illusions are universal, and that your cultural background can influence the way you perceive things.
A group of scientists did a study on the famous Müller-Lyer illusion. The illusion is simple, two parallels lines capped with arrows. On one line the arrows face in, on the other they face out. The human eye perceives these lines as being different in length, even though they are exactly the same.
For centuries scientist used this illusion as an example of something fundamental about human vision. In the 1960s, a group of scientist took this illusion and showed it to people all over the world, not just in the Western contexts of German science.
The results were surprising, when shown to some people in southern Africa, they did not report to see the illusion at all. Stating they observed the lines as the same length, a similar thing happened when the illusion was shown to people in northern Angola the Ivory Coast. The study showed that illusions are not necessarily universal.