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Vision is So Much More Than What Meets the Eye

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What do you see in this picture?

This mystery picture is known as the Renshaw Cow Card. Yes, that’s right - the picture shows a cow including the head and top half of the body. If you weren’t able to see that before, please take another look at the picture and try again. 

Dr. Samuel Renshaw (1892-1981), an American experimental psychologist used this image to portray that the brain perceives vision differently from what is simply seen through our eyes. Our eyes are able to view objects, but until the eyes communicate the messages to our brain where the vision is processed then we’re not really seeing. 

Interestingly enough, children tend to have an easier time spotting the cow in this image because they see in the natural way that we were born with and that is to be able to see the bigger picture without getting caught up in the details. When we are taught to read, our brain learns to look at each letter and we start getting caught up in the details and have a harder time seeing the big picture, unless we are familiar with the image. Once you are able to find the cow in the picture then usually it becomes very easy to find the cow in the future because our brain has already processed the image. Renshaw’s theory was applied during World War II to train sailors to identify enemy aircraft in a split second. Our visual system, specifically the way the eyes and brain communicate and process visual information can be trained to perform at very high levels.

Who do you see?

Who do you see?

Pictures of celebrities’ faces upside down with the mouth and eyes wrongly positioned in opposite direction as the rest of the face: http://thatchereffect.com/ 

Now turn it upside down, what do you see?

This illusion, known as the Thatcher Illusion or the Thatcher Effect was first demonstrated by Professor Peter Thompson of the psychology department at the University of York in 1980 using a picture of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Thatcher Effect shows us that when our brain sees a familiar face upside down it thinks it can identify the person so we get confident that everything seems normal with the facial image that we are viewing. However, only when the picture is turned right side up can we identify that something is wrong with the picture as both the mouth and eyes are upside down. 

The Brain & Vision

The Brain & Vision

Just like with these two examples of the Renshaw Cow and the Thatcher Effect, demonstrating how our vision is so influenced by our brain, so too our brain is involved in so many aspects of vision. Just like a computer works by having both hardware (memory card, hard drive, keyboard) and software (windows, chrome, macOS), our vision requires both the eyes as the hardware and our brain as the software.
In fact, more than 50% of the brain’s cortex is involved in processing visual information. 

It is essential to understand the importance of the communication between our eyes and our brain which enables a much higher level of functional vision. The amazing thing is that developmental optometrists can train the brain and the eyes to communicate optimally together in order to improve our quality of life.

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Common Questions

When you see with one eye, it's referred to as monocular vision, which provides a flat, two-dimensional view. On the other hand, seeing with two eyes offers binocular vision. The slight difference in the angle from which each eye perceives an object helps the brain to determine depth and distance, adding a three-dimensional aspect to our sight. This depth perception is crucial for activities like reading, driving, and sports.
Yes, while our eyes capture light and images, it's the brain that processes this information to produce what we recognize as vision. The eyes act as sophisticated cameras, capturing light and sending signals through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain then interprets these signals, allowing us to perceive and understand what we're seeing. This intricate relationship between the eyes and the brain highlights the importance of regular check-ups with an eye doctor, especially if you encounter visual disturbances or issues.
Approximately one-third of the human brain is dedicated to vision and visual processes. This substantial portion underscores the complexity and significance of our visual system. The primary visual cortex, located in the occipital lobe, is the main region involved in processing visual information. However, multiple other areas are involved in interpreting and reacting to visual stimuli. Given the brain's extensive involvement in vision, it's crucial to address any visual challenges promptly.
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What is Renshaw Cow Card?

An American experimental psychologist used this image to portray that the brain perceives vision differently from what is simply seen through our eyes. Our eyes are able to view objects, but until the eyes communicate the messages to our brain where the vision is processed then we’re not really seeing. The Thatcher Effect shows us that when our brain sees a familiar face upside down it thinks it can identify the person so we get confident that everything seems normal with the facial image that we are viewing.

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