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A Thing Is Not a Thing But a Think

The "Old Hag - Young Woman" model is an optical illusion that teaches us that everything we see in the world can be interpreted in more than one way. It is an invaluable way for people to learn that our view is not necessarily other people's view and that other people's view of things can be just as valid as ours, perhaps even more. Because of this, the "Old Hag - Young Woman" model can be used on training courses that teach thinking skills such as innovation. However, it can be even more valuable when used at any point on any training course when people get stuck because of their refusal to see other points of view than their own.

Explaining the "Old Hag - Young Woman" Model

To use the "Old Hag - Young Woman" optical illusion, you first need to understand how it works. It's a good idea to do this with a few friends or colleagues. Copy the picture at the top of this page and show it to everyone. Ask them to jot down what they see. Most people who don't know the model will write down that they see either an old hag or a young woman. Since you have two completely different answers, ask each person to explain what they see. You may find that in seeing the old hag or the young woman, the observers just won't see the other picture at all. Now you can explain how there are two pictures in one. The old hag is looking from right to left and the white triangular shape, bottom centre, is her chin. The young woman is looking away from us and the white triangle is her chest. When you explain the optical illusion, the first "penny will drop", and people will realise that they only saw half of what was in front of them.

Other Optical Illusions to Use in Perception Training

The "Old Hag - Young Woman" model is only one of many optical illusions that we can use in training to make the same point. Another model is the Indian and the Eskimo drawing. The Indian has only his face showing and is looking left. At the same time, the Eskimo is showing his whole body with his back to us and facing up and right. For a range of other similar optical illusions, check out the About.com website on puzzles and optical illusions.

What are the Learning Points in the "Old Hag - Young Woman" Model?

Depending on the training that you are running, there are a number of learning points to draw from the "Old Hag - Young Woman" optical illusion, including the following:

· Don't assume that others see the world the way you do; they don't. As Penelope Fitzgerald says, "No two people see the external world in exactly the same way. To every separate person a thing is what he thinks it is: in other words, not a thing, but a think."
· Don't jump to conclusions about anything until you hear and see other people's points of view.
· Don't think that because of your position, experience, and qualifications, your view is the only one that matters.
· When people see things differently from you, stop and try to see what they see rather than reject it out of hand.
· If you want to be innovative in your thinking and to have choices about what is best for you, train yourself to question what you see and to change your perception if an alternative view suits you better.