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Knowing how we see can help us use our sight

The Science of Sight might save your life

Sounds a little over dramatic but it is true, the science of sight can save your life.  Stop thinking of the eye from the romantic perspective and start thinking of it as a target acquisition machine. The primary focus area of perception is about the size of a quarter at arms length. For those of you who don’t know what pocket change is a quarter is about a third larger than a thumb nail.   Every thing outside this focus area is blurry and for the most part our brain ignores.  The one part of this low detail area we do react to is motion.  All this seems engineered not to overload the sensory flow and crash our multiple processing CPUs. 

The Science of Sight and why eye movement is important

One doesn’t merely look at something while on the road. Our vision’s center focuses on perceiving detail and frequently shifts its point of attention. This shifting is often guided by experience, such as checking taillights or stoplights, while peripheral vision stays alert for motion and notifies the center focus area accordingly. However, there are times when the lower brain stem drives our eyes, seeking movement or signs of danger. These primordial instincts are hardwired within us due to our evolutionary history. Despite being trained or deeply ingrained, these brain functions can be overridden by fatigue, distractions, or daydreaming, leading to potentially catastrophic consequences.

For instance, daydreaming can shut down these functions, while training our focus can heighten them. As we approach an intersection, our peripheral vision detects motion, focusing our eyes precisely on the area. Our brain evaluates the risk of proceeding through a green light, considering factors like a child waiting or someone texting while driving. Meanwhile, our eyes rapidly shift between various points: the traffic light, the other side of the intersection, oncoming traffic, and vehicles alongside and behind us. This is the ideal way to utilize our vision effectively.

You are not on a playground

Think of city streets and the open road as a battle zone… not a playground. Each intersection could be our last and one of the best ways to avoid this tragedy is to remember how our eyes work… the science of sight. Because by understanding how our eyes work we can train ourselves more effectively to be diligent. All the technology in the world won’t help if you focus on the wrong thing and don’t see the eminent danger coming down upon you. Target fixation has caused many fighter pilots to crash their planes as they become completely focused on the target.

In short, it is up to us to know how the eye works and our shortfalls such as the misconception that bright bold Razzle Dazzle colors and patterns make vehicles easier to see.  We should use this information wisely and train ourselves to be more observant, more diligent and, most importantly, safer.

Ride safe,

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