Eye Candy: Delectable Quotes About Vision

“There are now thought to be over 80 physical locations in the brain that process vision, connected by at least 12 parallel processing pathways.”

– from How To See The World (Nicholas Mirzoeff, New York: Basic Books, 2016:93)


“While our sense of sight is most often associated with the spherical organs that occupy the orbits of the skull, the brain is really the workhorse of the visual processing system.  Not only does processing what we see engage a full 25% of our brain and over 65% of all our brain pathways – more than any of our other senses – it begins in a part of the eye that is really the brain … with 100 million retinal receptors, the retina not only does the bulk of image preprocessing, it must also spatially encode or compress an image before it is sent along the 1.2 million axons in the optic nerve traveling to the brain.”

– from Visual Intelligence (Amy E. Herman, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016:7-9)


The following image and caption is from a chapter entitled The Importance of Seeing Double And Then Some in a book titled Unflattening (Nick Sousanis, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2015:31), evocative of Sue Barry:


“When I first learned about stereovision in college, I assumed that if I could see in 3D, I would be better at threading a needle, parking a car, and hitting a tennis ball.   Of course, all of this is true, but I had no idea just how different and how magnificent the world would appear in all its glorious dimension. Most importantly, I learned that I was not the victim of a visual fate that had been sealed in early childhood.  I could rehabilitate my own vision.  My newfound and hard-earned stereovision has given me an enormous sense of security, confidence, and accomplishment.  It is with a stable, clear, and depth-filled gaze that I now encounter the world.”

– from Barry SR.  Fixing My Gaze. New York: Basic Books, 2009:166.


“Ophthalmologists, sometimes myopic in their view of the ultra-elegant organ of the body, may have to contend with the realization that the ramifications of vision extend very far.  Consequently, the maintenance of vision is an overreaching obligation  The eye controls a panorama of life’s major functions.”

– from The Eye as Metronome of the Body (Virginia Lubkin, MD, Pouneh Beizai, MD, and Alfredo A. Sadun, MD, PhD, Survey of Ophthalmology 2002;47:17-26)




“The eyes are the only component of the central nervous system that can be viewed unaided, and ocular musculature is the first motor system that transcends reflex and becomes amenable to intentional control.”

– from Reznick S.  Research Design and Methods: Toward a Cumulative Developmental Science.  In PD Zelato, ed.  The Oxford Handbook of Devleopmental Psychology.  Vol 1 Body and Mind.  New York: Oxford University Press 2013:51.


“The emergence of functional binocularity depends on establishing binocular connectivity in the cortex rather than on eye alignment.”

– from Atkinson J, Braddick O.  Visual Development. In PD Zelato, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Devleopmental Psychology. Vol 1. Body and Mind. New York: Oxford University Press 2013:289.

“In considering visual development, therefore, we do not attempt to isolate  classically ‘perceptual’ processes, but consider ‘perception’, ‘cognition’, and ‘action’ as aspects of an integrated behavioral and neural system.  For example, this integrated approach recognizes that visual spatial tasks involve complex and reentrant circuity, connecting subcortical centers such as the superior colliculus and basal ganglia to many different cortical networks including classic visual areas of the occipital lobe, parietal spatial systems connecting to motor areas of the cerebellum, specialist temporal lobe areas for object recognition, top-down attentional control from frontal areas and feedback loops between all of these networks.”

– from Atkinson J, Braddick O. Visual Development. PD Zelato, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Devleopmental Psychology. Vol 1. Body and Mind. New York: Oxford University Press 2013:272.


“Appearances in visual awareness are not simply representations of ‘external’ stimuli; rather, they are internal presentations of active perceptual constructs, co-depdendent on, but qualitatively unattainable through, a mere transformation of stimuli.”  

– from Albertazzi L.  Philosophical background: Phenomenology.  In J Wagemans, ed.  The Oxford Handbook of Perceptual Organization.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015:27.


“Visual information goes to the visual cortex, so there are a huge number of connections going from the thalamus into the visual cortex.  But here’s the surprise: there are ten times as many going in the opposite direction.  Detailed expectations of the world – in other words, what the brain ‘guesses’ will be out there – are being transmitted by the visual cortex to the thalamus.  The thalamus then compares what’s coming in from the eyes … So at any moment, what we experience as seeing relies less on the light streaming into our eyes, and more on what’s already inside our heads.”

– from Eagleman D.  The Brain: The Story of You.  New York: Pantheon Books, 2015:52.


“Recently, I asked a group of friends which sense they would miss the least if they had to lose one.  Most people chose smell.  No one chose vision.”

– from Groh JM.  Making Space: How The Brain Knows Where Thing Are.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014:7.


“Chances are you haven’t heard of the term ‘visual resilience’ before, and with good reason.  To my knowledge, it hasn’t been previously written about.  But that shouldn’t stop us from adopting a term that has significant value in our broader considerations about vision.” 

– from Washington JE.  Optometric Vision Therapy: The Need in Minority Populations.  Timonium, MD: Optometric Extension Program Foundation, 2105:18.


“Reading requires that the visual system efficiently process a complicated stimulus that, at least for alphabet-based languages, is composed of smaller meaningful units—letters. In part because the number of letters is small in relation to the number of words, there is often a considerable visual similarity between words (e.g., “structure” vs “stricture”). Additionally, the position of letters within the letter string is also critical to word identification (consider “mast” vs “mats”). In light of these factors, it is perhaps not surprising that reading places a substantial burden on the visual system and that disorders of visual processing or visual attention may substantially disrupt reading.”

– from Coslett HB.  Dyslexia.  In V.S. Ramachandran, ed.  Encyclopledia of the Human Brain.  vol. 2. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2002:135.


And lastly, some of the best eye candy comes in the form of questions with open-ended answers that we’re still pondering 50+ years later, such as this one from the incomparable Dr. Daniel (Danny) Woolf:


Yes, Virginia – that was 1965.  The same year The Strangegloves released their iconic tune.

Do you have any favorite vision quotes?  If so, feel free to share them.  The only requirement is that they come with a reference citation.  (For example, one of my favorite visual aphorisms is: “Eyes don’t tell brains what to see; brains tell eyes what to look for”.  You’ll hear it here, there, and everywhere, and it is usually attributed to Dr. Larwrence (Larry) Macdonald.  But I didn’t include it in this batch because I couldn’t find it anywhere among  Dr. Macdonald’s published papers or presentations.)



9 thoughts on “Eye Candy: Delectable Quotes About Vision

  1. The correct Quote from Larry Macdonald is:
    Eyes don,t tell people what they see, people tell eyes what to look for.”
    I heard it with my own ears over lunch in1965.You should be able to find it in his OEP papers and the notes of every SUNY student.
    We can substitute any sense system and it works as well.

  2. “In studying visual development, we no longer find it helpful, experimentally or theoretically, to separate visual perception from visuocognitive components (including attention), or from visual control of the eyes, head, limbs, and body. Brain function does not neatly divide up into boxes called “visual perception”, “spatial cognition”, or “visuomotor co-ordination”, and neither does development.”
    Aktinson, J & Braddick, O. Neurobiological models of normal and abnormal visual development. The Cognitive Neuroscience of Development, ed de Haan, M & Johnson MH. Psychology Press, New York 2003:p43

  3. “Visual perceptions rely entirely on the history of behavioural success (or failure) arising from interactions with the environment, rather than image analysis. Retinal stimuli trigger neuronal activity, but cannot directly represent the actual properties of objects.”

    Purves et al. Understanding vision in wholly empirical terms. PNAS. Sept 2011;108(3):15588-15595.

  4. “Vision experience is not something that happens in individuals. It is something they do.” (Noe and O’Regan, 2002:567)

    Quoted in:
    Gangopadhyay N et al. Perception, Action and Consciousness. Sensoriomotor Dynamics and Two Visual Systems. Oxford University Press, New York 2010.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s