Is It a Vase or Are There Two Faces? Policyholders See One Thing; Insurers Another

CPCU Society Risk Management Quarterly

PUBLISHED ON: November 21, 2008

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A Danish psychologist named Edgar Rubin became famous around the turn of the past century for designing a “vase/profile illusion,” namely a picture that can be perceived as either a white vase against a black background or as two black faces against a white background. Since the picture’s been around since 1915, you’ve probably seen it by now.

With apologies to Dr. Rubin, an analogy can be drawn between the vase/profile illusion and certain modern-day conflicts between policyholders and insurance companies. In short, these disparate groups can look at the same circumstance and come to completely opposite conclusions.

This article also appeared in Contingencies (November/December 2007).