MadSci Network: NeuroScience

Re: Upside down glasses?

Area: NeuroScience
Posted By: Salvatore Cullari, Professor and Chair,Lebanon Valley College
Date: Fri Mar 21 13:47:45 1997

The upside-down glasses that you describe were first investigated by George Stratton in the 1890 s. Since the image that the retina of our eye sees is inverted, he wanted to explore the effect of presenting the retina an upright image. He reported several experiments with a lens system that inverted images both vertically and horizontally. He initially wore the glasses over both eyes but found it too stressful, so he decided to wear a special reversing telescope over one eye and keep the other one covered.

In his first experiment, he wore the reversing telescope for twenty-one hours. However, his world only occasionally looked normal so he ran another experiment where he wore it for eight days in a row. On the fourth day, things seemed to be upright rather than inverted. On the fifth day, he was able to walk around his house fairly normally but he found that if he looked at objects very carefully, they again seemed to be inverted. On the whole, Stratton reported that his environment never really felt normal especially his body parts, although it was difficult to describe exactly how he felt. He also found that after removing the reversing lenses, it took several hours for his vision to return to normal.

A number of other people have done similar experiments and I have listed some references at the end. In terms of doing a study for a science fair project, I have never seen such glasses for sale so you would have to make your own. In order to do so, you would need two lenses of equal focal length. Perhaps a local optometrist could help you with this. I would also check with this person beforehand in terms of possible side-effects. Of course, you would not want to wear this instrument while engaging in any behaviors that might be dangerous and if you are able to make them, be sure to only use them under supervision of an adult.

Stratton, G. (1896). Some preliminary experiments on vision without inversion of the retinal image. Psychological Review, 3, 611-617;
Stratton, G. (1897). Upright vision and the retinal image. Psychological Review, 4, 182-187.
Dolezal, H. (1982). Living in a world transformed. Chicago: Academic Press;
Kohler, I. (1964). the formation and transformation of the perceptual world. New York: International University Press.

I do not think that you will find too much on the Internet on this subject, but you might search "inverted images" or any of the authors I listed above. Another source is a sensory and perception textbook.

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