2003 volume 32(5) pages 593 – 599

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Bertamini M, Latto R, Spooner A, 2003, "The Venus effect: people's understanding of mirror reflections in paintings" Perception 32(5) 593 – 599

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The Venus effect: people's understanding of mirror reflections in paintings

Marco Bertamini, Richard Latto, Alice Spooner

Received 16 July 2002, in revised form 15 January 2003; published online 14 May 2003

Abstract. We propose the term 'Venus effect' for a common phenomenon in picture perception. It occurs when a picture shows an actor and a mirror that are not placed along the observer's line of sight, for instance a Venus admiring herself in a small mirror, and when the actor's reflection in the mirror is visible to the observer. In this situation, observers tend to report, incorrectly, that Venus is also seeing herself in the mirror in the same location as the observer. We discuss this using famous paintings as examples.

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