Quirks & Quarks

Read the fine print, without glasses

Flickering images improve our ability to read words on a page
Looking at a flickering image might help avoid the need for these (Malcolm Koo)
Listen8:01

If you have trouble reading the fine print on a restaurant menu, a team of scientists - including Dr. Melvyn Goodale, Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience at Western University - have come up with a simple solution. By staring  at a flickering image for several seconds, then looking at the fine print again, the text will be less blurry for a period of time. This is based on the knowledge that there are two major pathways that carry information from the eyes to the brain.  One pathway is fast and carries more coarse information, including movement; the other is slow and carries finer detail such as text. By looking at the flickering image, the fast, coarse pathway becomes tired and allows the slow, fine detail pathway to take over, therefore improving acuity for reading words on a page.  

Related Links:

  • Paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Western University news
  • Illusion captures the idea of coarse spatial processing versus highly detailed visual processing