An Upside-Down Experiment

In 1950, graduate student Fred Snyder of the University of Wichita spent 30 days wearing special glasses that inverted his vision. It was part of an experiment designed by Dr. N.H. Pronko, head of the psychology department, to see if a person could adapt to seeing everything upside-down. The answer was that, yes, Snyder gradually adapted to inverted vision. And when the experiment ended he had to re-adapt to seeing the world right-side-up.

Snyder and Pronko described the experiment in their 1952 book, Vision with Spatial Inversion. From the book's intro:

Suppose that we attached lenses to the eyes of a newborn child, lenses having the property of reversing right-left and up and down. Suppose, also, that the child wore the lenses through childhood, boyhood, and young manhood. What would happen if these inverting lenses were finally removed on his twenty-fifth birthday? Would he be nauseated and unable to reach and walk and read?

Such an experiment is out of the question, of course. Yet another experiment was made: a young man was persuaded to wear inverting lenses for 30 days, and his experiences are reported here. His continued progress, after an initial upset, suggests that new perceptions do develop in the same way as the original perceptions did. Life situations suggest the same thing. Dentists learn to work via a mirror in the patient's mouth until the action is automatic. In the early days of television, cameramen had to "pan" their cameras with a reversed view. Later the image in the camera was corrected to correspond with the scene being panned. The changeover caused considerable confusion to cameramen until they learned appropriate visual-motor coordinations. Fred Snyder, the subject of our upside-down experiment, found himself in a similar predicament, at least for a time.

Images from Life - Sep 18, 1950:

"Graduate student Fred Snyder falling down after removing special eyeglasses that reverse and invert everything he sees. Immediately before removing glasses he rode a bicycle with perfect control along sidewalk in Central Park."

     Posted By: Alex - Mon Mar 25, 2024
     Category: Experiments | 1950s | Eyes and Vision

Can't find this on YouTube but I could swear that I've seen a short movie about this study. It culminated with the subject flying a small airplane.

I would have seen this in the 80's but it had an old feel even then.
Posted by crc on 03/25/24 at 05:29 AM
I saw a study like this on some television program. I know it wasn't the same one because the inverting glasses were way cooler, more like something you'd see at Venice Beach rather than what you might get in a grab bag at "Mad Scientists R Us."
Posted by Phideaux on 03/26/24 at 01:08 AM

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