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Photo of mom and teen daughters has Internet losing its collective mind

The Internet just loves a good mystery, and the latest picture to go viral delivers in spades: An image of a girl with her twin sister and mother has everyone trying to figure out exactly who is who.

The photo of the three lovely ladies was tweeted out by teen Kaylan Mahomes, who titled it “Mom, twin & me” on Jan. 28. Since then, it’s been retweeted nearly 20,000 times and “liked” nearly 40,000 times as the Internet tries to figure out who is who. Take a look for yourself, and see if you can figure out #WhosTheMom?
It’s like #TheDress all over again, only much more puzzling.

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So what makes optical illusions so fun — or infuriating, take your pick — to puzzle over? Well, to answer that, you have to understand that an optical illusion doesn’t have so much to do with your eyes as it does with your brain. When you see something that just doesn’t make sense, your brain takes over to fill in the gaps, drawing inferences that merge what you’re seeing (something out of place with reality) with what you know to be true.

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In this case, though, is it really an optical illusion so much as it is one really youthful-looking mother and her identical twins that’s throwing us for a loop? Maybe. That’s where the brain part of an optical illusion comes in, though in this case we’re looking at something that doesn’t match up with what we’ve been socialized to believe, not something that defies some physical law, like the color matching required in #TheDress or worse, #TheShoe.

When we see a picture of a mother and her children, we expect to see something specific. Pleat-front Jordaches and some smile lines, maybe? That’s a joke, but we are at least conditioned to expect that the older woman will look, well, older! In this case, though given that all three of these lovely ladies have such similar features and a warm glow about them, every time you think you’ve sussed out #WhosTheMom, you have to change your mind again. Is she on the left? The right? Or wait, maybe that’s her in the middle!

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Fortunately the Indianapolis family has provided us all with a very crucial clue in the continuing mystery of who bore whom in an Instagram post made to an account dedicated to further torturing our brains. See if this little video helps you make up your mind any quicker:
If you’re still not sure, and you have other things you need to do with your day — work, for instance — some enterprising detective on Tumblr thinks they’ve got the mystery solved. You can head over to The Perks of Being Black blog and see if you agree with the verdict!

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