What are pictures that have two visual interpretations called? See the following image:

enter image description here

This image shows a skull from one perspective, and when you look at it a different way, it shows a girl sitting under trees. There are many images like this. What do you call these pictures?

  • Images which look different from different angles are called anamorphic [ Selection | Famous example ] -- your image doesn't depend on viewing angle; it seems to depend more on depth of focus. Focus on the space beyond the girl, so the foreground is out of focus, and the shape of the skull becomes clearer. It's not anamorphic, though.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 13, 2020 at 13:35
  • They form a subset of optical illusions. Jun 13, 2020 at 13:46

2 Answers 2


Similar to @Lawrence's answer but with little more context.

As per Wikipedia, your picture is an optical illusion, and within the set of optical illusions, a cognitive illusion, and within the set of cognitive illusions, an ambiguous illusion.

Ambiguous illusions are pictures or objects that elicit a perceptual "switch" between the alternative interpretations. The Necker cube is a well-known example; other instances are the Rubin vase and the "squircle", based on Kokichi Sugihara's ambiguous cylinder illusion.

  • It is Vital to point out that the oldest versions of such pictures were meant to point out the most important lessons, or contrasts that are available to the human condition, then or now. In this instance it is the carefree nature of youth overshadowed by the constant possibility of death. Such a reality is little regarded these days. Most showed skulls or old hags in contradistinction to lovely young ladies and as such brought the reality closer and the contrast disturbingly close.
    – Elliot
    Jun 14, 2020 at 4:15

They are called ambiguous images. One can argue that there is ambiguity in what the image ‘should’ be, though that ambiguity is often intentional.

Ambiguous images or reversible figures are visual forms which exploit graphical similarities and other properties of visual system interpretation between two or more distinct image forms. These are famous for inducing the phenomenon of multistable perception. -Wikipedia

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