Some See Dolphins In This Optical Illusion, Others See Something ‘Adult’

Do you have a dirty mind? Take a look at this image. What do your friends or coworkers see?

Almost all children will easily see dolphins in this image. Older people? It depends.

The well-done optical illusion, titled, “Message of Love from the Dolphins,” is truly a brain-teaser. People normally see one of two things and they have to work to get their brain to see the other option.

Why does this happen?

When we look at things with our eyes, we are actually just seeing light as it falls on objects. Our eyes don’t interpret the signal, they just send it through. Our brains, on the other hand, are responsible for decoding the images of light, and brains are often busy. A brain needs to interpret input in fractions of a second, so it takes shortcuts by using memories and past associations to make judgements. The brain’s busy processing of electrical signals makes optical illusions work.

Inside Science describes the process like this:

When you look at something, what you’re really seeing is the light that bounced off of it and entered your eye, which converts the light into electrical impulses that your brain can turn into an image you can use.  The process that takes about a tenth of a second but your eyes receive a constant stream of light, an incredible amount of information, so it’s really difficult for your brain to try to focus on everything at once. It would be like trying to take a sip of water from a firehose. So your brain takes shortcuts, simplifying what you see to help you concentrate on what’s important, which helps compensate for your brain’s tenth-of-a-second processing lag. This trait helped early humans survive encounters with fast predators – or at the very least avoid running into obstacles like trees.

So children, or perhaps adults who only watch the old television show, Flipper, will have an easy time looking at the image below and seeing dolphins. Most of us, by the time we are into our late teens (some of us earlier,) have seen enough adult, sexual, or romantic images that our brains deliver something totally different.

What do you see when you look at this image? I confess, I saw a romantic couple, and had to work for a while to see the dolphins. Does that give me a dirty mind? Hard to say.


If I were to deconstruct the image, critically, I would be force to ask the artists: What is the white space between the dolphins supposed to be, splashing water? The outer portion of the image looks like a starry night. The dolphins look like dolphins, after some work. So what of the white space that some interpret as lovers?

No matter what the answer to my question may be, the image is well done, and provides a cool brain teaser during the work day.



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