Seeing What We Know, Knowing What We See: Challenging the Limits of Visual Acuity
Fordham University - Graduate School of Business Administration; Harvard University; Humanistic Management Network
Ellen J. Langer
affiliation not provided to SSRN
October 6, 2010
Fordham University Schools of Business Research Paper No. 2010-023
Ageism has resulted in overstated expectations regarding the inevitable deterioration in human capabilities, such as visual perception, with age (Rowe & Kahn, 1987; Grant, 1996). Human visual perception, however, is of a largely constructive nature, evidenced in the complementary interactions between top-down inputs (e.g., expectations) and bottom-up stimuli (Engel, Fries, & Singer, 2001; Miller & Cohen, 2001). Based on this constructive nature, we hypothesized that visual perception may be better than is typically expected. In three experiments, we demonstrated the malleability of visual acuity using a conditioning procedure involving manipulations in bottom-up stimuli. Experimental groups read a book excerpt with one letter in decreased font size while the control groups read the same book excerpt with all letters in the same font size. Experiment 1 (N = 112) examined whether visual acuity could be enhanced for a specific letter. Experiment 2 (N = 70) assessed whether visual acuity could be enhanced for a non-conditioned letter while Experiment 3 (N = 108) evaluated whether the visual conditioning effects would transfer to all non-conditioned letters. Visual acuity for experimental groups was significantly better than that in the control groups, speaking to the general malleability of our visual sense.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 22
Keywords: Vision, Visual Acuity Improvement, Limits, Mindfulnessworking papers series
Date posted: October 7, 2010 ; Last revised: December 25, 2010
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