Vision gets better with the right mind-set

Eyesight improves when people expect to have especially keen vision

6:44pm, April 27, 2010

Imagine seeing better by thinking differently. That’s a vision with a future, according to Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer.

Eyesight markedly improved when people were experimentally induced to believe that they could see especially well, Langer and her colleagues report in the April Psychological Science. Such expectations actually enhanced visual clarity, rather than simply making volunteers more alert or motivated to focus on objects, they assert.

Langer’s new findings build on long-standing evidence that visual perception depends not just on relaying information from the eyes to the brain but on experience-based assumptions about what can be seen in particular situations. Those expectations lead people to devote limited attention to familiar scenes and, as a result, to ignore unusual objects and events.

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