Im a painter for many years. When I paint, I usually walk around and look at my painting for many hours. When painting session is long, it harder and harder to maintain a "fresh look".

By fresh look; I mean state of mind (perception) when I am as objective about my work as possible. The longer the session continues and painting is changed; its harder for me to be objective about it.

To be objective and fresh, artists would take many 5-min breaks in one painting session. I used to do that too, until I learned a "strange trick" from my friend.

Whole trick is to take your painting and just rotate it about 90 or 180 degrees for a moment and look at it. Surprisingly, this gives a fresh (somehow new) perspective at painting.

I would like to ask; why is that?

It seems to me, that somehow brain filters out many informations about images that it knows. When I rotate my image; it is recognized as different (not "known").

Any research on described phenomenon?

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    $\begingroup$ Canonical image views! It's a well-known effect in perceptual psych--I'll write up more of an answer when I get a moment. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Jun 30, 2016 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


No life can emerge in chaos - for life to emerge the environment has to be orderly. Organisms have to adapt to their environment, meaning optimise (or satisfice) output in light of input. In a patternless environment, there is no chance doing so.

Our brain evolved in light of this - we constantly learn and update what the "norm" is - let it be there's light if it's day or the hair colour of your partner. Equally, the brain constantly compares stimuli to the norm - if it's all good, no action needed, but a deviation from the norm shall raise an alarm bell.

Thus, we are 'programmed' to ignore what's normal, and be alert to the abnormal. Perhaps the most famous example of it is the sound of mechanical clock, which is simply not perceived once we spend enough time in the room it is in.

In your specific case, seeing the same image for a prolong time results in it becoming a norm in our brain, resulting in reduced brain activity.

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    $\begingroup$ The answer sounds nice, but do you perhaps have some references to back up your claims? Especially your claim or "less brain activity" worries me. Getting used to something may not always mean less brain activity. Sometimes it are patterns that may become more consistent e.g. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2016 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @RobinKramer This is actually based on such fundamental theories, that I'll have to dig for an appropriate resource that deals with this directly. But I'll try. $\endgroup$
    – Izhaki
    Jun 30, 2016 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ “What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher.” ~Chuck Palahniuk $\endgroup$
    – yeppe
    Sep 28, 2016 at 9:51

It is difficult to examine this phenomenon because we would have to define what it means to have a "fresh look" and how we could measure it. It is an interesting observation though. Here are a few possibilities for how we might interpret what's going on here, with some references to related cognitive science research.

One obvious point is that we recognise things more slowly when they are upside down. This is particularly well known in face recognition, but there are also (smaller) inversion effects in other types of stimuli such as scenes. This is often taken as evidence that when we encode or recognise something, we are not just remembering the pieces separately but are doing some sort of "holistic" processing which fits them together. In this case, you could say that when you turn the picture you take longer to recognise it, or that you see it as novel, and that makes you view it in a "fresh" way. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jesse_Husk/publication/5857415_Inverting_houses_and_textures_Investigating_the_characteristics_of_learned_inversion_effects/links/55dcbc1b08ae83e420ee5038.pdf

A related point is that objects often have a "canonical orientation" which we are most used to seeing them from. This has been a point of interest for models of object recognition, which often assumed that our representation is "view independent". So if you are painting objects, it certainly would be harder to process if you rotate them from the canonical. http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/30745263/pdf699.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ56TQJRTWSMTNPEA&Expires=1472559612&Signature=yDh4VqjQ%2Bsg1ibIebSzKt4fMvmM%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DOrientation_dependence_in_the_recognitio.pdf

As we might expect from the above, viewing something from a different orientation does actually change the things that we pay attention to and look at. For example, people make frequent horizontal eye movements when looking at landscapes, but if you rotate the image they seem to make a different pattern and may be drawn to different things. http://supersaturated.com/papers/pdfs/horizonSaccade.pdf



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