Science in the Making: Right Hand, Left Hand. II: The duck-rabbit figure

McManus, I. C.; Freegard, Matthew; Moore, James W. and Rawles, Richard. 2010. Science in the Making: Right Hand, Left Hand. II: The duck-rabbit figure. Laterality, 15(1-2), pp. 166-185. ISSN 1464-0678 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The BBC television programme Right Hand, Left Hand, broadcast in August 1953, showed a version of the duck-rabbit figure and asked viewers to say what they could see in the “puzzle picture”. Nearly 4,000 viewers described the image, and the answers to those questions have recently been found and analysed. The programme probably used the same version of the figure as appeared in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, which had been published a month or two previously. Although Dr Jacob Bronowski, the presenter of the programme, had suspected that left- and right-handers might differ in their perception of the figure, since they might scan it from different sides, in fact there is no relationship in the data between six measures of lateralisation and a propensity for seeing a duck or a rabbit. However the large data set does show separate effects of both age and sex on viewing the figure, female and older viewers being more likely to report seeing a rabbit (although a clear majority of viewers reported seeing a duck). There was also a very significant tendency for female viewers to use more typical descriptions of the duck, whereas males used a wider variety of types.

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ambiguous figures, duck–rabbit figure, handedness, lateralisation, scanning

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12 January 2010Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Feb 2012 14:54

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 10:13

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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