Optical Delusions - How Thoughts and Perceptions Change

It is often the case that clients present with such rigidity in their thinking that it is difficult to know how to begin the process of loosening so they can entertain the idea of seeing things in a different way. We want to reach for the psychological equivalent of WD40 - other lubricants are available.

One technique I use is to show clients examples of optical illusions. These demonstrate that our perceptions are not stable. The same stimulus - representing the "facts" of a given situation the client may be unable to appraise in a different way - gives rise to alternating meanings, thus demonstrating the inherent flexibility of our perceptons as we try to make sense of the world.

A good example is the classic "My wife and my mother-in-law" by W. E. Hill (1915) shown below.

Young woman, old woman optical illusion