Psychologist Made Glasses that Turned The World Upside Down: In 5 Days, He Saw Everything as Normal

Filed under: Breakthroughs,This and That |


One of the most lasting and stunning frontiers of all human reality lie within the confines of the mind.  Your reality can be shaped in a multitude of ways, some of which are nearly unimaginable.  Psychological research provides some keen insights into how our brains work, and one man’s work really took things to the next level.


Dr. George Stratton died in 1957, but did work that we can learn from to this day.  The scientist conducted numerous experiments to help him understand how our brains evolve and adjust in a variety of contexts, one of which led him to create a pair of glasses that made him see the world upside down.  As expected, the glasses caused him to feel nauseous at first, and they were very uncomfortable.  The next day, he felt that he was the one who was in the wrong position, not the world. Finally, his brain adjusted and everything seemed normal.

Here’s a bit from the wikipedia page of this extraordinary scientist.  This work is an example of just how amazing the human mind can be when we, well, put our minds to it:

Stratton went on to become a first-generation experimentalist in psychology. Wundt’s lab in Leipzig, with experimental programs bringing together the fields of evolutionary biology, sensory physiology and nervous-system studies, was a part of the career of most of the first generation.[57] It was the exposure there, added to the graduate work at Yale, that influenced Stratton into becoming a psychologist.[41] It was there that he started his binocular vision experiments as well. In these experiments, he found himself adapting to the new perception of the environment over a few days, after inverting the images his eyes saw on a regular basis. For this, he wore a set of glasses inverting images both upside-down and left-right. Stratton wore these glasses over his right eye and covered the left with a patch during the day, and slept blindfolded at night. Initial movement was clumsy, but adjusting to the new environment took only a few days.[58]

Stratton tried variations of the experiment over the next few years. First he wore the glasses for eight days, back at Berkeley. The first day he was nauseated and the inverted landscape felt unreal, but by the second day just his own body position seemed strange, and by day seven, things felt normal. A sense of strangeness returned when the glasses were taken out though the world looked straight side up, and he found himself reaching out with the right hand when he should have used the left, and the other way around.[59] Then he tried the experiment outdoors. He also tried another experiment disrupting the mental link between touch and sight. There he wore a set of mirrors attached to a harness as shown in the figureallowing, and forcing, him to see his body from above. He found the senses adapted in a similar way over three days. His interpretation was that we build up an association between sight and touch by associational learning over a period of time.[60] During certain periods, the disconnect between vision and touch made him feel as if his body was not where his touch and proprioceptive feeling told him it was. This out-of-body experience, caused by an altered but normal sensory perception, vanished when he attended to the issue critically, focusing on the disconnect.

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4 Responses to Psychologist Made Glasses that Turned The World Upside Down: In 5 Days, He Saw Everything as Normal

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    April 7, 2014 at 8:37 pm
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    July 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm
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