The bird/antelope drawing, a classic Rorschach test, symbolizes paradigm shifts in science. When the piece of paper with the drawing on it is held horizontally, the drawing appears to be of a bird; when it is held vertically, the drawing appears to be of an antelope (another example of this that Kuhn uses is the duck/rabbit drawing). To Kuhn, this rotation of the paper symbolizes how a scientist going through a paradigm shift “sees differently from the way he had seen before.” Just as a someone looking at the bird/antelope drawing vertically perceives a different picture, Kuhn argues that after a scientific revolution, “scientists are responding to a different world.” However, while these Rorschach tests are reversible (one can always flip the paper back to its original orientation), Kuhn is careful to note that the same is not true for paradigm shifts. Once scientists have perceived the world in a new light, they believe that in order for the new paradigm to make sense, all their previous perceptions had to have been mistakes.
Bird/Antelope Quotes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
The marks on paper that were first seen as a bird are now seen as an antelope, or vice versa. That parallel can be misleading. […] the scientist does not preserve the gestalt subject’s freedom to switch back and forth between ways of seeing. Nevertheless, the switch of gestalt, particularly because it is today so familiar, is a useful elementary prototype for what occurs in full-scale paradigm shift.