The Falseness of the "What do you See First" Tests on the Internet

The "what do you see first" tests are not what they seem. Many promise to reveal aspects of your personality according to what you identify in the image. However, is there any truth in this?
The Falseness of the "What do you See First" Tests on the Internet
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

They’re viral. They’re cannon fodder for clickbait and you’ve probably found yourself falling for them on more than one occasion. Internet “what do you see first” tests attract you by convincing you that they can reveal traits of your personality. You’re struck by those optical illusions that challenge and attract you by the uniqueness of their suggestive forms.

However, what’s the truth about these so-called tests? Can they really explain – validly and reliably – what kind of person you are or what traits define you based on what you see in the image? You might think there must be something in them because psychology – apparently – also makes use of these well-known techniques, with similar graphic creations.

However, we need to delve a little deeper into this topic in order to clarify certain ideas and concepts.

Some see in the “what do you see first” images, a resemblance to the Rorschach inkblot test. However, they’re extremely different approaches.

test "what do you see first"

Internet “what do you see first” tests aren’t what they seem

The “what do you see first” tests use a foolproof strategy. It’s the fact that, as a human being, you’re attracted to knowing things about yourself. You like the fact that they try to tell you what you’re like or what defines you. This explains why multiple spaces on the Internet capture your attention by telling you things like “what you see first in this image will reveal aspects of your personality with 100 percent accuracy”.

You fall for it, you click on the link. Even though it’s clear that there’s a commercial strategy behind these tests. However, we want to delve into something else. Firstly, their reliability. Secondly, to understand why they’re so popular. The answer to the latter could lie in the famous inkblot cards created by Hermann Rorschach.

The Rorschach test is the most popular psychological test in the world. Rorschach inspired figures like Andy Warhol and, to this day, his methods remain popular. So much so, that it’s even assumed that these enigmatic figures can reveal not only hidden personality traits but also make mental illness diagnoses.

Therefore, you might tend to assume that the “what do you see first” tests are capable of the same things. As a matter of fact, they’re similes of the resource designed by Rorschach in 1920. However, in reality, they’re quite different.

Projective tests don’t tell you who you are

To begin with, Rorschach’s purpose was to devise a diagnostic method for schizophrenia. A recent study conducted by the University of Toledo states that the Rorschach test is, indeed, reliable in detecting psychosis. However, it can’t be used to evaluate emotional and personality traits, etc.

Therefore, if anyone relates the “what you see first” tests with the Rorschach test, they’re wrong. In fact, they have no connection whatsoever. Furthermore, they can’t be linked with the classic projective tests such as the tree test or the person in the rain test.

The latter can provide clues about personality or emotions, but they’re always used in conjunction with a broader set of instruments to give more accurate diagnoses. In addition, the evaluation is carried out by professionals trained in these types of psychological resources and they’re almost always applied in the field of child psychology. For this reason, a test found on the Internet can never be valid, reliable, or credible.

test "what do you see first"

The “what do you see first” tests are optical illusions

In 350 BC, Aristotle realized that, by looking at a waterfall for several minutes, the rocks later seemed to move. It was then that he pointed out that you can’t trust your senses because they can easily fool you. Indeed, optical illusions often go viral on the Internet because they defy your senses and seem to contradict your brain, as the famous philosopher from Stagira discovered.

This is what the “what do you see first” tests are. They’re not personality tests, they’re optical illusions in which the eye offers unreliable information to the brain and the brain then interprets it. Studies, such as those carried out by the University of Kyushu, indicate that the fault occurs in the retina and in its inability to accurately perceive sets of shapes, colors, etc.

In these types of images, several forms are superimposed that put your brain in a quandary. It doesn’t perceive them exactly and that’s why your senses (in this case, the retina) send it loose fragments for it to process and interpret. With these alleged Internet tests what happens is that you often end up seeing the two or three superimposed images at the same time. Then, little by little, you separate them…


The “what do you see first” tests are a game, clickbait to generate interaction on the Internet. It’s true that they’re appealing and entertaining as you find out how you supposedly are, based on the figure that your brain sees in the image.

However, these resources can never tell you what your personality is like. They can’t tell you if you’re fearless or nervous. They can’t tell you if you’re a good friend or a free soul who dreams of conquering your own dreams, just because you saw a tiger first in the image instead of a monkey.

Keep that in mind and limit yourself to enjoying the tests as simple visual challenges.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Idesawa, Masanori. (1997). A Study on Visual Mechanism with Optical Illusions. Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics. 9. 85-91.
  • Mihura JL, Meyer GJ, Dumitrascu N, Bombel G. The validity of individual Rorschach variables: systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the comprehensive system. Psychol Bull. 2013 May;139(3):548-605. doi: 10.1037/a0029406. Epub 2012 Aug 27. PMID: 22925137.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.