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Your eyes aren’t as good as you think

A curated YouTube lesson on why your eyes suck.


Cynthia McKelvey


Posted on Oct 1, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 9:17 pm CDT

Your eyes aren’t perfect perceptual windows to the world outside your brain. In reality, they’re really quite terrible. Destin Sandlin of the YouTube series, Smarter Every Day, demonstrates one aspect of your terrible vision with his latest video where he explores your eyes’ “frame rate”:

Sandlin manages to put a positive spin on our eyes’ relatively slow framerate by noting that it allows us to see the movement as flowing smoothly. And it’s true that the human eye is remarkable in its complexity and abilities. But they are by no means perfect machines. Here’s Ze Frank summing up several strange quirks of the eye in a couple minutes:

Think about how often you move your eyes—pretty much all the time, right? Even as you’re reading these words, you’re doing so by moving your eyes with those quick jumps Ze Frank mentioned. And you’re blind for the whole time it takes your eyes to move from one point to another. It’s a short amount of time, of course, but it adds up. Now think about how much time you spend effectively blind, like when you’re driving or handling sharp objects.

But at least your vision is very accurate when you’re not blind! Even the nicest IMAX screen can’t beat the real deal, right? Not quite. Michael Stevens of VSauce explores the concept of the eye’s resolution in one of his videos, though he makes the important note that comparing the eye’s resolution to that of a digital camera is a faulty analogy.

So your eyes are not so good at perceiving the world around you, but that’s OK because it’s not your eyes doing the perceiving anyway—it’s your brain. Here’s Hank Green on PBS Digital Studios’ Crash Course explaining how our brains are responsible for how we perceive the world, and how our perceptual organs are just data collectors and relayers.

Now that’s some perspective.

Screengrab via SmarterEveryDay/YouTube 

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*First Published: Oct 1, 2015, 9:03 pm CDT