How is the Troxler Effect Applicable to Mirrors?

How the Troxler Effect applies to mirrors is one mystery that baffles many people. Science says the Troxler effect is responsible for mirror illusions but myths credit the illusion to spiritual factors. Our team set out to find out details about the Troxler effect and how it applies to mirrors. Here are our findings.

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How is the Troxler Effect applicable to mirrors? The Troxler Effect affects mirrors by creating an illusion of a strange face in the mirror. When you stare at a mirror, preferably in dim light, for a very long time you begin to see illusions of strange faces or distorted faces that look nowhere similar to yours. This is because of the Troxler effect, which causes areas in your peripheral view to slowly fade away.

Seeing strange images in a mirror might seem far-fetched and downright impossible but it is very real. The Troxler effect is an illusion created by the brain, and it is surprisingly a normal phenomenon. Read on to find out more about the Troxler Effect and how it affects mirrors.

How is the Troxler effect applicable to mirrors
Photo by Tasha Kamrowski from Pexels

What is the Troxler Effect?

The Troxler effect is an optical illusion that affects the way we see things. When you focus on a specific point for some time, say 2 minutes or more, any unchanging object or image around it will begin to fade away. In essence, the Troxler effect is the “blindness” of focus. When you focus your gaze on a spot, every other thing in your peripheral view will gradually fade out.

The Troxler effect was named after the psychologist who discovered it in 1804. Between when the effect was discovered and now, there has been extensive research on the phenomenon. As you read on, we will highlight the different ways scientists explain the Troxler effect. 

The Troxler Effect is a Sensory Adaptation

Sensory adaptation simply means that your senses adapt to a given stimulus until it stops sensing it. In visual perception, this means your sensitivity to an object reduces after constant exposure to it.

When you have a piece of paper in between your fingers, you feel it for a period of time. But, as you go on in your activities, the brain shifts its attention away from that piece of paper. That is the sensory adaptation in effect.

This is the same thing that happens when you focus on anything for a long time. It becomes blurry over time. This is because your attention is on the image and your brain has adapted to the sensation.

The Troxler Effect Causes Peripheral Fading

Peripheral fading is another type of visual adaptation that happens when you focus on any object. Your visual field is divided into central vision (what you’re focusing on) and peripheral vision (the surrounding area). If you fix your gaze on any spot without interruptions, objects in your peripheral vision will start fading away. That is also a part of the Troxler effect.

Video – The Troxler Effect

Watch this video as Rod Machade explains how peripheral fading happens due to the Troxler effect. He also demonstrates this effect with some pictures. Take a look at the pictures for yourself. And you’ll notice this effect in your vision too.

Filling In

Another part of the Troxler Effect is the phenomenon of filling in by the brain. This is a normal compensatory function of the brain. When there is an absence or shortage of information, the brain generates information itself and replaces it with the seemingly absent one. 

This is the reason why some people have mirror illusions or hallucinations when they stare in the mirror for a long time. What happens is that as some parts of their face fade away, the brain fills in the image. And any image that has been previously stored in your mind can be used. Some people have claimed to see images of monsters, dead people, and animals, among other things. We have also shared this article titled, babies and mirror superstition: a complete guide. You can check out the article for an in-depth discussion about the topic.

 The Troxler Effect and Mirrors.

The Troxler Effect gives spooky results when it applies to mirrors. When you stare at your reflection in the mirror and you focus on your eyes, the Troxler effect sets. You might find that parts of your face begin to disappear or blend.

In most cases, what happens is that the brain is focusing on the eyes alone. So all other parts of the face, which are now in peripheral vision, will begin to fade away.

Because of the Troxler Effect the brain gives the illusion of your face morphing or distorting into strange and monstrous images. One eye might seem to rise above the other while your nose and ears darken and vanish. Your cheeks and mouth may be distorted to look like one big mouth.

The Troxler Effect and Mirror Illusions

Because the brain likes to fill in lost information, it tends to substitute the new images with ones it can recognize. That is why some people who tried the experiments saw their faces resemble a monster.

These “monsters” are usually images already stored in the brain, probably from a horror movie. Some people testify to seeing images of dead parents or animals. This is also because the images are already stored up in their brain.

How to Stop Mirror Illusions?

The way to stop mirror illusions is to blink. This simple action will immediately stop the illusion and restore the image of your face in the mirror. This happens because your eyes refocus when your blink.

Myths Vs. the Troxler Effect

There are two common mirror myths that may allude to the Troxler effect. The first is the Bloody Mary myth that believes mirror-gazing can call up spirits. The second myth is about staring into the mirror on Halloween night. This myth says you will see your future spouse if you do this. Both of these myths are legends that have no scientific proof.

Bloody Mary Myth

This myth is based on the Troxler Effect. Legend has it that you can bring up the spirit or ghost of Bloody Mary when you gaze into a mirror. And when the ghost comes out, you can ask questions about the future.

To call up the ghost of Bloody Mary, the legend says to stare at the mirror and chant ‘Bloody Mary’ three times. This is usually done at night or in a dark room. The legend says that Bloody Mary might sometimes be very violent, scream, or try to reach at you through the glass.

Staring at a Mirror on Halloween Night

A popular myth has it that if you stare at a mirror at midnight on Halloween, the image of your future spouse would appear. Some people also say you will see whoever has been stalking you. But according to the legends, if you see a skull or monster, you are going to die before you marry. 

These are mere legends that have scientific proof. They were cooked up to add to the scary nature of Halloween night. Going by how the Troxler effect works, most people will see a monster. So they become afraid that they might die before they marry.

Related Questions

Are Mirrors Dangerous?

Mirrors are not dangerous if you handle them carefully. But they can be dangerous if the glass breaks. Broken glass can cause injuries. Aside from this, mirrors pose no danger whatsoever. Superstitions may say otherwise, but they are not true. Even when you gaze into a mirror for a long time, the monsters you might see are only figments of your imagination.

Should You Cover a Mirror at Night?

If you are a light sleeper, you might want to cover your mirrors at night. Mirrors are known to increase the lighting in a room and make it brighter. This is because they reflect the light that is directed at them. Light reflection from the mirror might keep you awake at night if you are a light sleeper. You can also check out this article that talks about why you are not supposed to sleep in front of a mirror. We have shared interesting reasons.

What Happens When You Look at a Mirror in the Dark?

If you stare long enough at a mirror in the night you will see mirror illusions. Strange faces may appear and you might see scary images or monsters staring back at you. But these are just distortions of your face. This happens as a result of the Troxler effect. Are you also wondering what will happen if you stare at a mirror longer? You can check out this article titled, what happens when you stare at a mirror for too long for more information.


In this article, we have described how the Troxler effect creates strange illusions in mirrors. We’ve also explained the phenomenon and how it works. The Troxler effect is one of the underlying reasons behind most of the optical illusions we are familiar with today. We hope this article answers all your questions about how the Troxler effect applies to mirrors.

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