Have you ever wondered how the eyes work? They’re the most complicated organ to understand because there’s just so much going on! The eyes intercept an image and send it to the brain, which then organizes the information to make a cohesive image. But what happens when the image is not cohesive?
This process happens so quickly though that sometimes information can get muddled and confused. The brain can actually make mistakes in interpreting what it’s seeing. That gives us a skewed image of reality, with sometimes hilarious results as we’ll see shortly!
How Do the Eyes Work?
The eyes work in a very intricate way. It’s more than just seeing and understanding. Our eyes have been evolving since the beginning of the human species to give us the magnificent sense of sight we have today. No other animal sees the way humans do. It really is something unique and inspiring.
But how do the eyes work exactly? It starts when light bouncing off objects enters through cornea and the eye’s pupil. From there, the light will be bent by the lens and sent off to the retina.
The retina is how we are able to see color and different shades. A series of photoreceptors made up of rods and cones. Rods detect lighting and movement, while cones detect color. Then electrical impulses carrying the visual information attained by the eyes are sent to the brain.
The brain rearranges this information to give one cohesive image. Two eyes, one cohesive image. Something isn’t adding up. Technically you don’t need a set of eyes to see. You can get by with just one eye and see just as clearly.
Although having two eyes does come equipped with plenty of advantages. Two eyes can handle double the light, giving you a wider range of vision. If you close the left eye, your peripheral vision on that side is significantly reduced. You won’t be able to see past your nose.
The right side, you’ll sometimes notice is a little blurrier than normal. This is because when the two eyes focus and work together to see, the brain gets double the information to work with, meaning better vision for you. So when information is missing from a closed eye, images can sometimes get lost in translation.
Have you ever been certain that an object was one color, only to find out it’s actually a different color completely? Often people will say that this is an instant where your eyes are playing tricks on you. It’s true, to an extent.
It’s actually more of a case where your brain is playing tricks on you with the images it receives from the eyes. Say your friend shows you her new necklace, you take a quick glance and you notice it’s blue. Two days later you see her wearing the necklace she showed you, but suddenly it’s red.
To work as quickly as it does, the brain has to sometimes cut corners when intercepting visual information. This means the brain uses something called visual memory. Your brain uses visual memory to discard images that may not be relevant to what you’re trying to see, but sometimes your brain makes mistakes.
In the example above, it could be your brain was remembering seeing a similar necklace in blue; or maybe the color red didn’t seem to matter so it didn’t properly register in your brain.
How to Trick Your Brain: Activity!
As much as we don’t like to admit our faults, our brains are pretty easily tricked. Scientific American has a great activity for you to try so you can see for yourself how the brain tries to fill in missing information. Have fun and do this with your young ones too!
All you’re going to need for this little experiment is a blank piece of white paper (regular printer paper should work) and a piece of tape. Go ahead and roll the paper along the longer side (about a quarter-size in diameter) and use the tape to hold it in place. Set it aside for later.
Now for the fun:
- First, find a well-lit spot with a non-white background, like a colorful wall or door.
- With both eyes open, lift the roll of paper to your left eye and look through it like a telescope. Take a second to observe what you see out of both eyes. Write it down if you’d like!
- Then take your right hand and with the palm facing you, place it up against the tube so your pinky finger touches it. Your hand should be about halfway down the roll of paper.
- With both eyes looking straight ahead, observe what you see. Now try moving your hand up and down the roll of paper. What differences do you see?
- Now try closing your left eye and then the right eye. Do you notice anything strange?
- If you noticed something off about the image, move the roll away from your face without moving your right hand. Does what you saw before disappear? How far is the roll when it does?
- Try this again with your right eye looking through the tube! Sometimes one eye will work better than the other. This is normal as one eye is normally the dominant one.
If you did this experiment correctly, you will have noticed a hole in your hand. Of course, common sense will tell you that there is no hole in your hand (or at least we hope there isn’t). This is your brain taking information from both eyes and combining it to make one image. Two eyes, one distorted image.
This normally won’t happen since your eyes are usually looking at the same thing, but when you force both eyes to see different things, the brain continues to work to create one image. The hole you might have seen in your hand is coming from whichever eye is looking through the tube.
Our bodies may not be perfect, but they never cease to amaze. Tricks like this one help give us a better understanding of the inner workings of our body and how amazing and fragile they are. One slight change in information can produce quite a different result than reality!