View Full Version : Do the congenitally blind understand concept of sight?

06-02-2001, 10:43 AM
I've heard that some blind people dream in shades of light, but I know that some have complete neural dysfunction. What I've always wondered if they know what sight means. I would think it would be incredibly frustrating to have this sense that everyone talks about, and says it's the most important sense, and not know what the hell they're talking about. Can you imagine if everyone was saying "Wow, you don't blurk through your belly button? I can't imagine what it would be like to not be able to blurk?" btw noone can blurk through their belly button can they?

06-03-2001, 06:37 AM
I don't have an answer, but you may be interested in Cecil's column What are the dreams of the blind like? (http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_310.html) While there may be exceptions, in general the dreams of the congenitally blind contain no visual elements and consist predominantly of sound plus smell, touch and the sense of movement.

06-03-2001, 08:21 AM
Welcome to the SDMB, Kid. Please learn how to use the rather extensive archives. You may find many threads there pertaining to blindness.

Anyone using a Steely Dan title as a handle is a welcome addition :D


06-03-2001, 09:51 AM
I read something that sort of blew my mind along the lines of this topic. The author was Oliver Sacks. Unfortunately, I've read a lot of his work and I don't remember the title in which this specific issue was addressed. I believe it was either Island of the Colorblind or Anthropologist on Mars.

Sacks talks about people who have been blind either since birth, or for many many years and then have their sight restored. Apparently, in many ways, we need to LEARN to see. And in fact, the "sight portion" of the brain atrophies while other senses increase in sensitivity during blindness. So someone with restored sight has the "lenses" for seeing, but no receptors to decipher that input. They can feel a ball and a cube and identify each one, but upon looking at those items, they're unable to determine which is which.

I think there's some discussion in this work about what blind people "see" when they dream. And how their dreams differ after their site is restored. It is worth looking up if you have time.


06-03-2001, 10:19 AM
I think it's from Anthropologist on Mars. A guy gains sight through surgery and is profoundly disturbed and disoriented by the experience. Fortunately, he becomes blind again.

06-03-2001, 10:19 AM
There are numerous books on the subject at any library. There is a video out, 'At First Sight' which also is about this.

06-03-2001, 05:12 PM
Actually my question wasnt about the dreams but whether they understood the concept of sight when to them it could only be an abstraction

06-03-2001, 06:03 PM
They understand the concept just like humans understand the concept of sonar, like bats have: An abstraction, but not entirely incomprehensible.

06-03-2001, 06:40 PM
I remember reading about a device that provides a crude kind of "sight" for the blind. It consists of a camera that can be pointed at an object, and a panel of studs that raise/lower themselves, creating a bas-relief "image." Obviously not practical but one blind person was quoted as saying that he found it interesting to experiment with.