I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Matt Webb, I co-authored the book with Tom. Hello! Mostly I post notes to my personal weblog, Interconnected, and sites that I run across to the Mini Links–that’s probably the best way to find out what I’m interested in. What I’m not is a psychologist or neuroscientist (my day job is in social software, internet stuff), but I’ve been immersed in the academic literature for the past N months. Hopefully that means I’ll be able to bridge some of these brain ideas over to the tech world, which is the one I usually inhabit.

It has been great fun writing Mind Hacks. Actually, what was possibly more fun was trying out all the experiments, mucking around with mirrors, or a pendulum, or sitting by the road watching the traffic. I’m aiming to post the same kind of stuff here, things to try at home (or on your friends), and to do the same as in the book: dig a little deeper, see what’s really happening in our heads. If there’s something you think we should give a go, email in. If it’s not too embarrassing I’ll put photos up.


Hello. And I’m Tom Stafford, the other author of the book. While I was doing my degree and PhD I kept notes on lots of funny little things in psychology and neuroscience, although I never really knew why I was doing it. Then along came Matt and the idea for the book, and I had a place for many of the things I’d jackdawed over the years. But they were just enough to get us going. The rest of Mind Hacks me and Matt discovered during our Summer of Book – and that was a hell of a ride I can tell you. All summer we kept finding out new exciting things, and we knew that we’d only have time or space for a fraction in the book. Hopefully some of them will end up on this weblog, along with other things out there that we missed. There’s also room for all the discussions we didn’t have in the book, about all the wider issues raised by this stuff, and especially about different implementations of the hacks we suggested. I’m looking forward to finding out some more cool things and having some cool conversations on…I hope you’ll join us.

Dragon’s Head

Speaking of eyes following you around the room, this Dragon Optical Illusion is pretty cool. You make it out of paper and sellotape, and move around it with one eye closed. The head seems to move and follow you around. (There’s a PDF to make the model, and a video to watch if you can’t be bothered.) Here’s the one I made:


The head’s actually folded inwards, but we’re so used to 3D objects bulging outwards that we see the model as if it’s moving instead of its true shape. You don’t even need to close one eye–from a few feet away it’s pretty compelling. A neat instance of the visual system’s assumptions dominating our current knowledge.

Hack 101: Make Eyes (or Anything) in Pictures Follow You Round The Room

The eyes of some pictures seem to follow you around the room, like those of the famous WWI recruitment poster which helped garner almost 3 million volunteers in two years:


Try it. Get up and look at your screen from the side. Is he still looking at you? He should be.

Recently published research in the journal Perception [1] discusses how this effect works. The story was covered in the press (e.g. here). Turned around into a ‘how to’ rather than a simple ‘explanation’ it’s perfect material for a hack. I saw it too late to include in the book so I’m putting it here.

So here we go: How can you design pictures of faces with eyes that will follow you round the room?

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