Monday, September 10, 2007

Eyes Closed Visual Experience -- Subjects 3 and 4

In two previous posts, I described the visual experiences reported by two volunteers who wore random beepers while keeping their eyes closed in various environments for at least two hours a day over the course of 3-4 days. Subject 1 reported sensory visual experience in only 25% of his samples, and of only a fairly uniform black or orange field. In the majority of his samples, he reported no experience whatsoever -- not even of blackness or neutral gray. Subject 2, in contrast, reported visual experiences, often complex and detailed, in every single sample.

Subject 3 (an administrative assistant here at UCR) stood somewhere between Subjects 1 and 2, reporting visual experience in 9 of her 12 samples. When she was in a dark environment (4 samples), she described her experience as slightly differentiated blackness with a little bit of motion in it, like the turbulence of water about to boil. In lighter environments (5 samples), she consistently described her visual experience as like a sea of yellow-white or gray swirls. In one sample, these swirls were accompanied by a dark afterimage of something she had been looking at; in another, by dark and light spots. In those samples where she reported no visual experience whatsoever, she was either very deep in thought (2 samples) or asleep (1 sample).

When I pressed her about the spatial characteristics of her eyes-closed visual field, she resisted attributing it any properties of depth or distance. (Well, at first, she said the distance was something like arm's length, but then she retracted that.) She said the field seemed broader than tall, and to extend about to the range of her ordinary eyes-open peripheral vision.

Subject 4 (a retired economist) reported no sensory visual experience whatsoever, in any sample, not blackness, not gray, not colors or faces, and no visual imagery either -- nothing visual at all, whether he was out in the sun or indoors playing piano or listening to the radio. When he closed his eyes in my office during the subsequent interviews and thought about his visual experience as it was ongoing, he reported some visual experience (of darkness or the like), but he insisted that his eyes-closed consciousness in the sampled moments was not like that. He no more had a sense of darkness when the beep went off than he had a sense of the presence or absence of magnetic fields in the room. He did think he sometimes had visual experience with his eyes closed, during the experiment -- but never in the random moments at which he was beeped.

1 comment:

A Woman said...

When I close my eyes I think I see the tiny veins in my eyes and the blood particles moving through them. They look to me very much like the traffic moving on an very busy expressway.