A Science/Biology/Physics Question....

Discussion in 'General Education' started by teacherman1, Dec 31, 2013.

  1. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Been researching this question for a while and haven't found an answer. Can anyone help? Web links would be great!!!:)

    Since the human eye works like a camera, we know that all images passing through the lens are inverted. These upside-down images are sent to the brain via the optic nerve and supposedly, at some point, flipped over to coincide with our physical world (up & down courtesy of gravity).

    Most doctors agree that, at least for the first few days, babies see the world upside-down. Then, they say, the baby's brain learns to flip the image.

    When, why and how does the brain do this? How do we know for sure that this happens the same for everyone?
     
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  3. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

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    Dec 31, 2013

  4. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Thanks, Joe
    Went to the site and joined, but then realized that it's really not a question and answer type forum. It seems to be a place where people share published studies on specific science topics. I do appreciate the suggestion, though.:)
    Steve
     
  5. ajr

    ajr Rookie

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    The human eye does not work like a camera. It works very, very differently from a camera, and about the only thing it has in common with a camera is that they both capture light in a coherent way. The "eye works like a camera" meme is commonly used by science programming because most people don't understand how wildly inaccurate it is, and the general message of how the eye works can be conveyed. It's more important that people have some general idea of how their body works than an accurate one, because a doctor can always explain some new detail if there's a problem.

    There is no preferred image orientation, and this can be shown by an adult wearing image-inverting glasses for about a week. They'll see the world as right side up again, because the brain doesn't actually care and it's not something that's hard wired. They do not suddenly lose the ability to read when this happens.

    In a camera, the pixels have a fixed arrangement between them. The image sensor is an array of color-filtered, photosensitive capacitors. The image you get is intrinsically a property of the position of the individual photosites, because the camera doesn't care about relationships between the pixels, only the absolute value of the pixel itself.

    In the eye, there is no such fixed arrangement. The brain learns the orientation and position of the photosites, which themselves work nothing at all like the camera. Most of the visual processing in the brain doesn't actually care, in an absolute sense, where the nerves generating the signal actually are in the eye. They care about relative position - what nerves are nearby and how their signal is different, because that's how object recognition occurs. Perception (what we call vision) is generated by the brain and is only loosely coupled with what's actually there. That you see things "right side up" is a learned perceptual phenomenon, much like how you learned where your feet are.

    As a result, there's no preferred image orientation, and when you modify the image (as in wearing image-inverting glasses), nothing happens after the brain re-learns what it should be seeing.

    Adults also take a shorter time to re-orient, as our brains are more developed and have learned more patterns to reference than an infant.




    For print-inversion, if I were funding research grants, I would look more intensely into novelty effects rather than image orientation. My money would be on the following: the brain is being reintroduced to a familiar symbol through inverting print, but that symbol is now different enough where the brain can recognize it as part of a larger pattern (a word) rather than an independent, disconnected entity.

    A direct prediction of this idea would be that students who learned English as their first language and have success with PI would not need to use PI for another alphabet that was learned later in life, like Cyrillic.
     
  6. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    This subreddit is definitely where you want to post: /r/askscience
     
  7. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    I agree that print-inversion is nifty, but what teacherman is seeing is increased ability due to novelty. Concentration has to be increased drastically when reading with print upside down. Focus has to be better to look at the text in a manner that is different than usual. I believe this aspect of reading upside down is more significant than the fact that is upside down.

    I've seen many kids with reading disabilities have less trouble when you turn a book in a new orientation. They often do end up reading faster, but even when not, they tend to read more accurately.

    I can see how the increased concentration can get people to access print in a way they were not able to do when they must access it in the typical manner which may mean they have bad habits with concentration or focus but are unaware that it is even happening.
     
  8. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

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    Sorry. It's www.reddit.com/r/askscience as the other poster suggested. That would be the ideal place as you actually have people in the science field answering your questions. :) good luck.
     
  9. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Thanks AJ,
    So, does the lens of the eye invert the image like a microscope or telescope lens?
    That's the part that I'm interested in.
     
  10. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    You could do an ELI5 thread on Reddit ... ELI5 how an infant brain flips the image between the eye and brain.
     
  11. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    teacherman1, I think what ajr has carefully and thoroughly explained is that the camera model is inadequate for the eye and inapt for your purposes.

    One of the first exercises in Betty Edwards's justly acclaimed Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain has people who swear they can't draw sketch something right-side up - and then upside-down. The first sketch tends to be predictably rotten. The second is much, much better. If it were simply a matter of eye-as-camera, this difference shouldn't occur. What seems to happen, though, is that one's brain processes the visual input differently: one lets go of a certain set of presuppositions about the thing one is drawing.

    Let me speculate that students who read better when print is oriented differently are being forced by the reorientation to let go of some presupposition about how to see that works very well for other things but is an impediment for print. For instance, one of the huge, important tasks of infancy and toddlerhood is learning that an object doesn't stop being that object just because it's oriented differently in space... and then along comes the lower-case alphabet, in which b, p, d, and q (which in most fonts are simply rotations, flips, or rotations-and-flips of each other) ARE different. It might be that inverting the whole text allows some struggling readers to attend to the individual letter shapes rather than being distracted by the mass of squiggly bits parading across the page; it might even be that inverting the text allows other struggling readers to stop being distracted by individual letters and to perceive the word as a whole.
     
  12. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Very interesting and thoughtful reply, TG.
    And in addition to b, p, d and q we also have u, n, m and w. That's almost 1/3 of the lower case alphabet!:dizzy:
     
  13. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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  14. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    I really like this idea, too, AJR...:)
    As far as the research goes, we (MIT) is focusing right now on determining the percentage of kids who actually benefit from PI as a reading intervention.

    After that we'll try to figure out why it works.
     
  15. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Hmmmm...
    Still no answer here. I guess it's not such an easy thing to explain - and prove.

    Just a note: George M. Stratton did the original experiments with inversion goggles in the 1890's. Although it has been repeated occasionally since then, the experimenters used prisms rather than lenses to invert the images entering the eye.

    Prisms only invert the image - they don't switch left to right like a lens does. I've been trying to get someone to duplicate the experiment with high quality virtual glasses similar to those used to view to view movies. No luck so far....

    It's Saturday night and till nothing....
    How about some input from the Science/Biology/Physics teachers out there?

    Make believe a student asked you this in class....:whistle:
     
  16. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    What you're saying about concentration is true, atoz. Some good readers actually become more accurate when the text is inverted because it forces them to slow down and concentrate on what they're reading. But the dyslexic kids actually exhibit signs of relaxation when the text is flipped over. They not only become more accurate readers - they actually pick up speed. And suddenly they are not as frustrated. They actually start to enjoy what they're doing and have fun with it.

    And how do you explain the inverted writing? With absolutely no practice or effort, they write neater and spell better upside-down.
     
  17. ajr

    ajr Rookie

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    I'll be blunt and try to clarify a2z's point at the same time.

    Let's say someone is crappy at doing something one way, but shows sudden improvement when asked to do the same task slightly differently. This does not mean that the new way is better or improved, or that the person should keep doing it this new way. It may be that they're just abnormally crappy at doing it the first way, for whatever as-yet-unknown reason.

    What's being suggested is that the causes for the initial crappiness at a task be looked into and be resolved, whatever the task is.

    This is seen frequently in physical activities like sports. Athletes who progress to a certain level sometimes halt progress because they've picked up bad habits in their training. They have to change their training activities enough to drill new habits and motor patterns. The new activity isn't better, it's just required to force the athlete to change previously learned and ineffective behavior.

    Tasks like reading (and even thinking) have these same neurological patterns.

    For instance, if you've picked up the habit of speaking words to yourself as you read, you'll never make it past 240-260 wpm in reading. That someone can read comfortably at 800-1100 wpm is unthinkable to someone who has that bad habit, because of subvocalization.

    And yet that "bad habit" is an integral part for many people in learning to read in the first place. It's very conceivable that the act of recognizing and differentiating glyphs on a page might have similar stages as the skill develops. Or any number of other problems, like the attention issues previously mentioned by others, which itself has developmental stages.
     
  18. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    More concentration. Having to do things differently because it is inverted.

    Did you know just brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand causes different synapses to fire in the brain and make the brain work differently? Same thing applies.

    BTW, I was able to write neater upside down than right side up the few times I tried it. I just had to concentrate more.
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Let's be a little less hasty to dismiss subvocalization out of hand. As a strategy, it proves very useful to those who struggle in reading poetry: giving them permission not to read quickly and to try to "hear" as they read makes a huge difference in their ability to understand the poem and recognize a range of literary devices. And most of the best readers I know default to subvocalizing when reading poetry or very densely packed prose, precisely because slowing down is advantageous. Slowing down both requires and enables the reader to attend differently to the text than one does when reading at top speed. There are, of course, other ways to do this: tagging significant words with sticky flags certainly slows the reader down.

    What print inversion accomplishes for certain readers is probably similar: it's forcing a difference in the way the reader attends both to the wholes and to the details.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  20. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Sub-vocalization, according to Dr. Dale Jordan in his book *Dyslexia in the Classroom (page 42), emphasizes how important it is for dyslexic children to be allowed to sub-vocalize during Spelling Tests and when writing. The "Shhhhhhhhhh" factor actually cuts off an essential learning channel for auditory dyslexics.

    And the same goes for tracking with the finger while reading.....

    :)Steve

    *highly recommended to anyone interested dyslexia - teachers, parents and students
     
  21. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Subvocalization is, by definition, not vocalization, however: it's moving the lips soundlessly. It tends to be fairly useless when one is skimming for specific information, unless of course one subvocalizes selectively (perhaps only the terms for which one is skimming).
     
  22. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Just re-read the section on sub-vocalization in Dr. Jordan's book and he uses the term to mean muttering and low vocalization. Maybe the definition has changed in the 40 years since his book was published.
     
  23. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Or he could have thought he was innovating the term without realizing that it existed, or he could have decided to use it for the meaning he intended. It wouldn't be the first time this sort of thing happened in reading research, nor by far the last.
     
  24. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Yes. I'm sure they do. If the do screw up, they can blame it on the text being flipped instead of them being stupid. I'm not saying they ARE stupid, but most dyslexics feel they are by the time they start getting help or if the help they are receiving isn't appropriate.
     
  25. ajr

    ajr Rookie

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    The whole point of me bringing up subvocalization is not to insult it as a strategy; it's to point out the fact that an essential part of learning to read winds up being a roadblock to the skill it's essential for.

    I am attempting to point out that people can become stuck in stages of development, not that any particular stage is bad or good.
     
  26. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Thanks AJR. I do understand what you are saying.

    And I'd like to thank everyone else for their input here. All of the answers have been good ones and any one of them could be part of the answer to why PI works.

    Steve

    *And still no answer on the science forum.....
     
  27. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Still no responses on the askscience site...

    Doesn't it make you wonder if this may
    be something that hasn't been adequately researched?

    Any other ideas on where I can get an answer???


    Also, for anyone curious about the upside-down vision phenomena, here's a telescope/microscope expert explaining why images are inverted in celestial telescopes and microscopes.

    He compares this to the inversion of the image entering the human eye.

    This might be a good instructional video for High School students. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtAwdO0Dhnc


    :whistle:
     

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