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Positive Belief in Visual Ability Improves Eyesight

Seeing, really is believing according to a recent experiment at Harvard University. Psychologist Ellen Langer and her colleagues reported that eyesight significantly improved when people were experimentally induced to believe that they could see especially well. The findings were published in the April 2010 issue of Psycological Science.

It was pointed out that these high visual expectations actually enhanced visual clarity, rather than making the participants simply feel they had better vision or making them more alert or motivated to focus on objects better.

In the study, “20 men and women who saw a reversed eye chart — arranged so that letters became progressively larger further down the chart, with a giant “E” at the bottom-accurately reported more letters from the smallest two lines than they did when shown a traditional eye chart with the big letters on top. All volunteers had normal eyesight.

These results reflect people’s expectation, based on experience with standard eye charts, that letters are easy to see at the top and become increasingly difficult to distinguish on lower lines, the researchers suggest.

Participants who said they thought that they could improve their eyesight with practice displayed a bigger vision boost on the reversed chart than those who didn’t think improvement was possible, but only for the next-to-smallest line. Both groups did equally well at reading the smallest, topmost line”, reports Discovery News.