Seeing Is Believing: Part 2 – The Invisible Purple Elephant

Imagine you’re born into a world where, at a certain age, all members of your community receive a purple elephant which is invisible to everyone but themselves. Society caters to the needs of people’s elephants, the media centers most stories around the existence of elephants, people discuss the flaws and virtues of their elephants constantly, and they’re even making movies about purple elephants that only owners of elephants are allowed to attend. Prior to the magic age, you don’t see the elephants, but you’re assured that someday you will.


You finally reach the purple elephant acquisition age and presto…no elephant. You believe that elephants exist because why else would everyone be talking about them?  But where is it? You also think that you should see yours because you constantly hear how amazing they are.  Maybe yours is close by and you just haven’t noticed.  Maybe they are just small and hard to see. Maybe you have, in fact, been standing on your elephant your entire life believing it was actually planet earth.  You look around intently searching for anything that may even vaguely resemble an elephant-esque structure. Nothing. If you ask for help, most people look at you with the duh look because everyone else knows what an elephant looks like, why don’t you?

You can begin to understand how this might be frustrating.  Imagine now that your elephant’s name is stereopsis.

As we learned in previous posts, stereopsis is the measure of finely tuned binocular depth perception.  It’s the test your eye doctor performs when they ask you to wear those black glasses and point to the picture that appears closer; it’s also the skill broadly necessary for viewing 3D movies.  But what if you can’t see it, does that mean it doesn’t exist? Is it possible that three dimensional viewing is just some massive plot or exaggeration that the masses of society has held together for years and years, and eventually someone will tap you on the shoulder and whisper “just kidding”. Not likely.  Science has proven it’s out there, and human beings are designed and wired to see it, so why can’t you? Not to worry though, elephants can’t see three dimensionally either.

Vectograms present a unique opportunity in the Vision Therapy room, and in doing so, provide the proverbial Let’s Make a Deal conundrum.

pe2Behind door number one is the answer everyone else gives – parrot information that you’ve heard others offer about the beauty of their elephants

Behind door number two is the answer it sounds like you want – embellish about the beauty of the elephant that you cannot really see.

Behind door number three is the truth about what they really see – no elephant.

Door number one and door number two are the choices made by the “tell me what it’s supposed to look like and I’ll tell you if I see it” people. Essentially, they are asking you to give them the answer so they can re-write the question. For effective administration of Vectograms, we need our patients to choose door number three – every time.  Forget what they think three dimensions should look like, bypass what they think we’re trying to get them to say, and ask questions that require them to explain what it really looks like to them. A therapist explaining what a vectogram should look like is equivalent to describing what the invisible purple elephant should look like. It won’t do them much good, especially if they’ve never had an elephant to begin with. Ask questions that lead them to choose door number three – encouraging details of the picture their eyes are really taking. That, my friends, is the “right answer” – how they perceive it.

I’ll even get you started.

What do you see?


Posted on January 6, 2014, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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