Lincoln – right or left?

One of the surprising elements of the feature about the Hair Part Theory done on the NPR Radiolab show (, was that a big picture of Lincoln was shown to the live audience and then flipped to show him with a right hair part. There was a collective gasp from the audience because it was so different! On their website, you can try the flip by clicking on the Lincoln picture.   To put the gasp in context, the live show actually pushed it onto a 20 foot high screen, which really made an impact.

Turns out, when we were first researching whether Lincoln parted on the right or left, the data  can be very confusing. The original photographic record was done with daguerreotypes, which print a reversed image by default. History books will tend to flip it back, just to get the image right. The clue as to which is correct is that Lincoln had a little bump on his right cheek, and this certifies that he wore his hair parted on the left.

However, one of the most popular pictures of Lincoln appears on the 5 dollar bill, which as you can see below, shows Lincoln with a right part.  This was a true image, as you can see by the bump on his right cheek.  Turns out, the day of that picture turned to an engraving, the stylist put his hair on the other side for some reason


Here is a picture of the real Lincoln actually – its quite different, and your initial assessment of his character and strength are modified as well.


Check this out: his punk looking Lincoln with no hair part – can you imagine?

lincoln_no part

Here is the story from Time magazine:

Also, here are the same images flipped:  Check your initial assessment of his character and strength and likability with the hair on the opposite side.  also, notice that with a no hair part, the difference isn’t so strong, as well as your assesment




lincoln_no part_rev


About John Walter

A long long time ago when I was just 19, I discovered the effects of changing my hair part from right to left. The strength of the change - in my case from a social misfit to "Joe Popular" was amazing, and not only that, when I looked around, it was happening to others. The Hair Part Theory was the result of researching the effects and putting it into a more scientific framework and language. My sister Catherine Walter was instrumental in getting my vague handwaving theories into a great paper, including a slew of statistics to illustrate just how many leaders we have that are hair parters! A few years after discovering the Hair Part Theory, I discovered, or more accurately re-discovered a true image mirror - and recognized myself at a deep level. The full story is elsewhere on this blog (link coming), but suffice to say that the True Mirror (the trade name of my perfect version), reflects your hair part the way it actually is, and you can see exactly what you are matters!
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2 Responses to Lincoln – right or left?

  1. BJ Nicholls says:

    Listening to the old Radiolab show that got into this. The Lincoln photo flipped also flips the lighting and the non-symmetrical face. If you’ve ever looked at images of faces where they are made artificially symmetrical, you see how most faces not symmetrical and we favor the look of one side over the other. Here’s a left mirrored and right mirrored pair made from the Lincoln photo. Lighting is from one side, so it’s not just the facial asymmetry that makes the face look different, but it’s the eyes and mouth that change the face, the hair part is mostly irrelevant.

    • John Walter says:

      Hi BJ,
      thanks for your post. For me, the hair part is a key difference right to left, but more than that the issue here is not about lighting, but about information. Pictures are static, the lighting of a living person will shift moment to moment, so the takeaway is not about what the lighting says, but what the face says. My theory is pretty simple – when you reverse images, you change the information in the eyes and face…the face reads differently. Hair parts aside, the fact is, mirror faces are different than true faces. Whenever you look in a backwards mirror, your eyes will shift immediately from what is natural to a version of you that is not natural. expressions just read differently from normal, and most people just stop expressing. This is why the True Mirror is so powerful – for the first time you can see yourself in real time as you truly are.

      the attached two images are Lincoln true image and backwards image. Using your own observations, necessarily subjective, try to look in his eyes and read what he is saying. The backwards version simply is not real, and if you examine your thoughts about what you are seeing, you can detect that the backwards image generates an odd response in you.


      On the hair part difference, notice the only version of Lincoln with a right part looks very different (lighting notwithstanding, how do you relate to the information in his face with a right part vs a left one.)

      Lincoln Left part:
      Lincoln right part:

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