What Is Depth Perception and How Important Is It?
We’ve all heard of the words “depth perception” before. Maybe after your friend stubbed their toe, they grumbled about their depth perception, or maybe your little brother tried on your glasses and totally lost his depth perception. But what exactly is it?
Depth perception is the human eye’s ability to see in three dimensions and judge the distance of an object. It takes both eyes working in sync to look at an object and develop an informed idea about it, like its size or how far away it is. Your two eyes look at the object from different angles and that information is processed in your brain to form a single image.
This type of perception is responsible for forming an idea of the length, width and height of an object. One way depth perception allows us to do this is by taking previous knowledge and using it to understand the world around us. It usually occurs unconsciously and happens thousands of times a day without you ever realizing that you are using it.
In Technical Terms
Depth Perception is also known as stereopsis. People with normal, or binocular vision (vision created by two separate eyes working together to form a single image), can perceive the depth and distance of objects. People who are cross-eyed (strabismus) or have a lazy eye (amblyopia) often struggle with this part of their vision. Eye injuries can also cause sufferers to experience trouble with depth perception while they are healing.
So what happens if you suffer a debilitating injury in only one eye? An interesting fact about people with only one eye with functioning vision (over a long period of time) is that they usually have an acceptable level of depth perception. It functions well enough for them to do day-to-day tasks in a safe manner. Their body has made adjustments to compensate for the switch from binocular to monocular vision. They may only face difficulties with higher level skills such as performing surgery or being an airline pilot. That’s why it’s so difficult for people with poor vision to engage in professions like aviation or medicine. That’s also why it’s so important to start taking care of your vision from a young age.
Importance of Depth Perception
Depth perception is important to our everyday life in so many ways. It allows us to move through life without bumping into things. Without it, you wouldn’t know how far away a wall was from you or the distance from your car to the car in front of you.
It also lets you determine how fast an object is coming towards you. This skill is important if you are crossing the street and there are cars coming or if you want to pass a slow car and have to go into the oncoming traffic lane to do so. Depth perception keeps you safe in these types of situations. If your depth perception is off, you likely will not be able to drive safely.
So how do you know if your depth perception isn’t functioning properly? If you have troubling judging how quickly an object is coming towards you, such as a car or even a ball that is being rolled to you, you may have poor depth perception. For a true diagnosis for this important field of vision, visit a qualified optician. They can administer a test with the Howard-Dolman apparatus. This can help narrow down the cause of your problem so that you may address the problem directly. Visiting an optometrist regularly is essential to preserving your vision, so do not neglect to schedule your appointments.
Fixing Your Poor Depth Perception
So what happens if you suffer from poor depth perception? Are you doomed to stubbing your toes for life? Luckily, that’s not the case. There are ways to improve your depth perception naturally, including simple eye exercises. There are many eye exercises out there that can help with a variety of eye conditions.
One good exercise you can try out to improve your depth perception is the penny drop. You will need a partner for this exercise. Your partner stands a couple of feet in front of you and holds a penny between their index finger and thumb.
They will then hold the penny out in front of them over a cup that has been placed on the floor. They will move their hand randomly over the cup, sometimes slow and other times quickly. Your job is to tell them when to drop the penny so that it lands in the cup. This tests your depth perception by assessing where the cup is in relation to the penny. It will also strengthen your depth perception if you work on it repeatedly.
If your depth perception is caused by one eye not being as strong as the other, you can try eye exercises that strengthen one eye more than the other. This can be accomplished by covering the stronger eye and exercising the weaker eye. For instance, cover one eye, then have a friend take a small penlight and shine it on a darkened wall. Follow the light as it travels across the wall in random patterns. If you build this into your workout regimen, you’ll be able to naturally strengthen the relevant muscles.
Improving Your Vision Naturally
Besides eye exercises, the other easy and non-invasive way to naturally improve your vision is through proper diet and nutrition. Eyes require specific vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Among the most important are vitamins A, C and E, along with zinc and antioxidants. For a more comprehensive list, check out this list of 17 essential vitamins, minerals and herbs that are necessary for eye health.
Poor depth perception might seem like the end of the world, but luckily, it’s not. Make sure to visit your eye doctor at least once a year to help track changes in your vision. Additionally, adding eye exercises and vitamins into your routine can make a world of difference. The more you make the necessary changes now, the better your eyes will be down the line. Your future self will thank you!
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I suffer from body dismorphia (self diagnosed) and wondered if, in addition to the mental aspect of this affliction, maybe my vision problems of, nearsightedness, astigmatism, and decreased depth perception, also contribute to how I “incorrectly” perceive myself. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Professional or otherwise.
How can one relate binocular cues for depth perception to psychology and to daily human activities
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“They may only face difficulties with higher level skills such as performing surgery or being an airline pilot.”
Great article, but the quoted phrase makes me react. I was born with left amblyopia. During my childhood years my only problem was that i at early age realized that I could not join the air force lika my father did.
So I became a Surgeon;-), later Flight-Surgeon, after which I took out PPL with Instrument rating. It isn’t that difficult even with one eye.
It is actually not being one-eyed that is a problem in itself rather than the possible risk of acute incapacitation that limits the piloting.
Yeah, go see a professional, Penny… Never self diagnose any “condition”.