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Do you see the rose? Puzzle shows how our brain doesn’t recognize an object we don’t expect

Can you find the rose in this picture? Puzzle made by Harvard scientists reveals why we sometimes struggle to see what’s in front of us – and it’s what the brain expects to see

  • Harvard psychologists have created three brain teasers to challenge the brain to recognize a series of roses
  • Test, created by Babylon Health in collaboration with Harvard University, provides insight into how the brain works
  • Can explain why we have trouble ‘seeing’ things, such as lost keys, that lie ahead


If you’ve ever spent hours looking for an object to find it hidden in plain sight, this puzzle can help explain what’s going on in your brain.

Harvard University psychologists partnered with Babylon Health to create a visual experiment that challenges participants to find a single rose hidden in three busy images.

Before seeing each illustration, the participants were shown one of the three ‘versions’ of the rose in preparation. For example, some were shown an upside-down rose, while others were shown a rose in a different color.

Participants were then shown and timed each of the three images below to see how long it took to find the bullseye.

Scientists found that participants took longer to find the rose when presented in a different way than their ‘preparation’ or ‘prime’ rose.

Ready to find the bullseye? Try the puzzles below

These are the three images presented to participants in the 2000 person experiment. Unlike most participants, you don’t get to see a ‘prime’ rose, which means you have to work harder to find the hidden flower.

Time yourself on each image and compare your answers to the ‘no visual prime’ figure below, which shows the average time of people participating under similar conditions.




For example, participants who were shown a colorful rose prior to the experiment took, on average, the longest time to locate the rose in the images, which are in black and white.

Scientists think this may be because the brain expects to see a red rose somewhere in the picture and thus overlook the black and white rose, even if it has the same shape.

The same principle was applied to participants who showed two upright roses as ‘prime’ because the roses in the images are angled.

The participants who did not see a rose in preparation took the longest to find the rose. This may be because the brain has no reference point for its ‘quest’.

The test, created by Babylon Health in partnership with Harvard University, used 2,000 survey participants and divided them into four groups, giving each group one of four different conditions before the test started.

Neeha Dhawan, a Psychology researcher at Harvard University, explained how the findings could explain behavior in everyday life.

Try the experiment completely

Play the link below to get visual ‘prime numbers’, like 75 percent of the participants in the experiment.

She said, “Most of us have experienced a situation where we are looking for an object, something we are out of place, and we cannot find it even when it is right in front of us.

“We think this can be partly explained by the fact that we usually have a very limited / limited perspective on how the object looks in our mind.

“So to find the object, we’re looking for a fixed presentation of the object, because we think it will look exactly as we expect. More often than not, the object we’re looking for doesn’t look as expected (imagine looking for your phone and instead of standing face up on the desk, it is diagonally next to the bookshelf). ‘

She added that in order to find objects faster, people should try to have a “more conscious or looser perspective” of what they are looking for.

Speaking of the findings, Ms. Dhawan said, “Another interesting thing we found in the data is that older participants who got the alternative unexpected perspective from the bullseye (condition # 2) generally found the hidden object faster than participants. who were not given this perspective (condition # 1).

“This finding (if we can replicate it and show meaning) has the potential to cast doubt on the way we think about old age – stereotypically, people think older people are less likely to find objects they misplace, simply because of it.” effect of getting old “.

“Maybe instead of your age getting in your way, is it your fixed perspective on the object that is slowing you down? And this is something that we can very easily improve by encouraging people to have a conscious alternative view of that object. ‘