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Too much screen time can change visual perception

Asking the research question – ‘Will all that screen time damage our vision?’ – the answer, as any good scientist wil answer, is ‘it depends’. However, there is some impact upon the way we perceive things. However, this is not necessarily a negative outcome, given that our visual perception is highly adaptable.

Visual perception refers to the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eyes see. This is fundamental to how we ‘see’ and ‘interpret’ images. Our eyes ‘take in’ lines as well as the points on the ends of the lines. At the same time, our brains organize and making sense of a given image.

Interested by what increased screen time duirng the coornavirus era means for people, researchers at Binghamton University have been delving into the psychology of screen use.

Focusing on video games, the researchers found that the human perceptual system is very sophisticated, capable of rapidly adjusting to a substantive alteration in the statistics of the visual world. This was performed uisng eye-tracking technology.

The researchers contrasted a person walking through a woodland, where the types of stimuli like trees, branches, and bushes, are each oriented in across multiple angles. With such images there is a slight predominance of horizontal and then vertical planes together with many oblique angles.

With video games it is different, and it has been established that long-term changes do take place. It also stands that playing video games for extended amounts of time can lead to eye strain. But to what extent does the influence on perception matter?

Comparing what happens when a person engages in video game play, the researchers found, despite a significant difference in geometries, no significant differences, at least when it came to the matter of orientation sensitivity.

The research outcomes have been published in the journal Perception, where the peer reviewed paper is titled: “Mind-Craft: Exploring the Effect of Digital Visual Experience on Changes in Orientation Sensitivity in Visual Contour Perception.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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