What You See First In This Image Reveals What Is Most Important To You

fish or mermaid optical illusion personality test

While free personality tests on the internet are by no means an accurate measure of who you are as a person, they’ve proven to be fascinating nonetheless.

There are so many different traits that comprise personality, which is what makes everyone so unique. Being objective about your own personality traits, however, can be difficult because we don’t always see ourselves the way others see us.

Internet personality tests make it fun and easy to uncover little hidden pieces of yourself that may give you a some insight into who you are.

It can’t be understated that these types of personality tests are solely for entertainment purposes and are not meant to be an accurate analysis of your psychological makeup or well-being — a fact demonstrated by one particularly popular personality test making the rounds online recently.

In the popular meme below, what you see first in the optical illusion is said to reveal whether you are right- or left-brained.

The meme suggests that the ambiguous figure is either a mermaid or a fish, and the way you interpret it supposedly provides insight into the dominant side of your brain.

According to the meme, if you see a fish, you are right-brained, and if you see a mermaid, you are left-brained.

However, many people sharing the image on Twitter, including Harry Potter author JK Rowling, said that rather than a fish or a mermaid, they saw either a donkey or a seal.

RELATED: Only People Who See This Horse Going Backward Are In Their Right Minds

Does seeing a fish, mermaid, seal or donkey in this optical illusion mean you are left- or right-brained?

In reality, what you see in this optical image likely has nothing to do with being either left- or right-brained.

As it turns out, this particular image was first introduced in 1968 in the journal "Perception & Psychophysics" as an example of ambiguous figures created for use by psychologists in any of a variety of experiments.

The image was again repurposed for a 2008 study at Cornell University that has nothing at all to do with being left- or right-brained, but rather looked at how people's "motivational states — their wishes and preferences — influence their processing of visual stimuli."

Researchers Emily Balcetis and David Dunning wanted to discover whether or not an objectively ambiguous image would be perceived differently by participants if they felt motivated to see one figure or another.

Participants were shown black and white drawings of animals. Half of the participants were told that seeing farm animals was be worth positive points and seeing sea animals was worth negative points, and the other half were told the opposite.

Each participant accumulated points based on their choices, and their points would determine something they would consume after completing the image task: zero points equated to water, positive points equated to candy, and negative points equated to a can of beans.

The final image used to determine their total points was this ambiguous image, which the researchers referred to as the "ambiguous horse–seal figure.":

Photo: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2006 Vol. 91, No. 4, 616

The researchers found that, when hoping to see a farm animal, 66.7% of participants saw a horse and 33.3% saw a seal. Meanwhile, when hoping to see a sea animal, only 27.3% saw a horse and 72.7% saw a seal.

Motivated by wanting to eat candy instead of canned beans, “Participants tended to see the interpretation of the figure that they desired to see, rather than one they wished to avoid,” the study concludes.

What this means is that when you’re motivated to see something a certain way, you’re more likely to see it that way.

RELATED: What You See First In This Picture Personality Test Reveals Your Dominant Traits

So what does it mean if you saw a fish, mermaid, donkey, horse, or seal in this optical illusion?

Without any explicit motivation, such as a stated reward, it's most likely that the animal you saw first is one that represents values and personality traits you find favorable or advantageous.

Here's what the first thing you in this image may reveal about what you think is important, based on the symbolism commonly associated with each.

1. If the first thing you saw was a horse...

Horses are prestigious animals known to symbolize freedom, endurance, majesty, spirit, determination, and courage.

If you see a horse in this image, you embody the free-spirited nature of the horse. You are a particularly determined person who isn’t afraid to face challenges head on.

2. If the first thing you saw was a seal...

Seals, which share traits of both Water and Earth elements, are symbols of playfulness, intuitiveness, harmony, and happiness.

If you see a seal in this image, you are laidback and drawn to adventure. Just as the seal is comfortable on land and in water, you find it easy to adjust to new situations and go with the flow.

3. If the first thing you saw was a fish...

Fish are symbolic of rebirth, fertility, luck, change, health, and emotions. Associated with water, fish are also known as symbols of tranquility and balance.

If you see a fish in this image, you’re very in-tune with your emotions and aren’t afraid to express them. You have a strong intuition and can adapt well in just about any situation.

4. If the first thing you saw was a mermaid...

Mermaids are symbols of beauty, nonconformity, and femininity.

If you see a mermaid in this image, you’re someone who always remains true to themselves. Just as mermaids cannot be tamed, those who see a mermaid in this image revel in their uniqueness.

5. If the first thing you saw was a donkey...

Donkeys are symbols of honor, growth, service, and intuition.

If you see a donkey in this image, you’re a hard worker with a strong sense of responsibility. You’re also loyal, but your strong intuition keeps you from blind loyalty. While many may say you’re stubborn, in truth you just know to trust your gut and proceed with caution when it feels necessary.

Again, this personality test is meant for entertainment purposes, and shouldn’t be taken as a professional evaluation of your personality.

RELATED: What You See First In This Optical Illusion Reveals Your Most Frustrating Personality Trait

Micki Spollen is an editor, writer, and traveler. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her travels on her website.

Get the best YourTango advice, celebrity news and giveaways in your email inbox daily. And it's free.