The Rubin Vase, also known as the Rubin Face or Figure-Ground Vase, is a famous optical illusion that plays on the brain’s figure-ground organization. This illusion was first introduced by the Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin in 1915.

In the Rubin Vase optical illusion, you are presented with a simple duotone image. When you look at the image, you’ll notice that you can interpret it in two ways:

As a vase or a similar symmetrical object: If you perceive the white area as the figure (the focused object), and the black area as the ground (the background), you’ll see a white vase against a black background.

As two faces looking at each other: Alternatively, if you perceive the black area as the figure and the white area as the ground, you’ll see two black profiles against a white background. The ‘vase’ then forms the space between the faces.

Interestingly, it’s challenging to see both interpretations at the same time. Our brains usually flip between the two possible interpretations. This phenomenon is an example of a bistable perception, which refers to our minds flipping back and forth between two interpretations of a single image.

The Rubin Vase demonstrates an important principle of human perception: that our brains separate visual signals into figure (the focus) and ground (the background).

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