Misleading Thumbnails

Misleading Thumbnails

Part of a series on Optical Illusion. [View Related Entries]

Updated May 05, 2014 at 01:20AM EDT by Brad.

Added Mar 31, 2014 at 01:57PM EDT by Don.

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Misleading Thumbnails are images that appear to resemble something else entirely after they have been reduced in size, creating a type of optical illusion. These are not to be confused with the contextually misleading thumbnails associated with YouTube vloggers known as “Reply Girls”, which contain sexually suggestive images meant to increase video view counts.


On February 13th, 2005, the “Misleading Thumbnails” Flickr[1] group was launched, featuring photographs which could misinterpreted as a picture of something else when viewed as a small thumbnail on a gallery page.


On March 23rd, 2008, Ebaumsworld[6] posted a photograph of a lamp that appears to be the underside of a woman wearing bikini bottoms in the thumbnail (shown below).

On April 1st, 2011, YouTuber FluffeeTalks uploaded a video in which he discusses a misleading photograph of canyon that resembled a woman’s genitalia (shown below). In the next three years, the video received more than 290,000 views and 2,500 comments.

On April 16th, a page titled “Misleading Thumbnail” was created on the Internet culture wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica,[3] which highlighted misleading cropped photographs from social networking and dating site profile pages. On July 12th, BuzzFeed[5] highlighted 15 examples of images that appear to be sexual in nature when cropped or viewed in a reduced size (shown below). On October 1st, Redditor Metal321 submitted a visually misleading photograph of several pigs titled “Its not what it looks like” to the /r/funny[4] subreddit, where it gained over 3,100 up votes and 200 comments (shown below, bottom right). On December 21st, the /r/misleading[2] thumbnails subreddit was launched, which gained upwards of 31,200 subscribers in the following three years.

Notable Examples


  human brain   |   tree (b&w)   |   caterpillar   |   helicopter   |   mario kart 8  


riot police    |    living room    |    owl in a mug    |    violin    |    keyboard   


explosion   |   dragon dog   |   sword   |   corpse   |   eye (b&w)


classic iPod   |   dog yawn   |     taco shell     |   waffle iron   |   ice cream cone


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