Why Peripheral Vision is Your Secret Asset

“Always look people in the eye,” my Pop said, “because Gonifs (thieves, swindlers,
and rascals) never look you in the orbs. They are too busy figuring how to steal your
401K like Bernie Madoff.” That remark got me thinking about peripheral and foveal (central) vision.

When you are jerking around on the Internet, playing video games, watching TV, add reading-and-writing, you are focusing your eyes through a tiny keyhole in your retina called the Fovea < Latin for Pit. It produces your sharpest, central seeing.

Foveal vision is one of the differences between Homo sapiens and the rest of the
living things. Animals, insects and even viruses see using wide (outside-of-the-center) peripheral viewing.

When is the last time you saw a lamb, horsefly or Swine Flu virus Googling on their computer, reading an article in Scientific America, or writing a letter home to Mama?

See, they want to view the Big-Picture which requires the edges, fringe, and
outside - < Greek: meaning - circumference – the sides, not the sharp center.
Remember narrow = foveal, and wide = peripheral (holistic).

So What

Our species, according to the latest scientific research is 4.4 million years old, (see
ARDI from Ethiopia, and forget Lucy who is only 3.5 million). However, modern Homo sapiens, folks who look more like us than gorillas in the zoo, are only 10- 12,000 years old.

The point is that sharp, central, foveal vision is only about - five hundred years old.

That means our kind – plain-old-folks from Europe, Africa, and Asia, have been
successfully surviving and thriving - seeing exclusively with their w-i-d-e, holistic
sight for more than ten thousand years - verses reading-and-writing since Shakespeare (1564-1616).

Harnessing Technology

“Two wrongs do not make a right, but two-Wrights do make an airplane”.

Electronics is baby-new technology – call it Edison and his 1,093 patents.
The phonograph in 1877, and Electricity (1879) went mainstream after World War I.

The Computer, TV, Videos, Reading and Writing are newbies, compared to how
our ancients made their living. Forget pussy-cats and Lassie, we have survived
and thrived as Predators eating the meat of the denizens of the savannah, not
petting them.

Our kind needed the big, wide picture to catch their prey. When you organize hunters to knock off your food, and all you have to communicate with are vocal whistles, grunts and screams, your eyes are the difference between starvation, and bringing home the wild boar’s bacon for the wife and kiddies.

Voluntary, Not Autonomic

We have will power, (volition) and freedom, to see foveally (sharply) or switch to
wide, holistic peripheral vision. Imagine the NBA player dribbling the ball down court looking straight in front, yet seeing his rivals to his extreme left and right.
Is that foveal or peripheral? Narrow or wide?

Foveal is narrow, peripheral is wide. We need both for different purposes.
We make the switch (Top-Down) using the Executive function located in our Neocortex thinking brain. How? Check out your PreFrontal Cortex.

We choose to change our Eye-Movements by switching focus using our
Extra-Ocular-Muscles. Both eyes together have a dozen muscles, (six in each) unless you are a Cyclops, one-eyed Greek mythical giant. These muscles produce three core eye-movements: microsaccades-drifts-temors.

Who Cares

Your eyes are constantly (82% of the time) making fast, irregular jolts (movements,
saccades) - when changing focus from foveal to peripheral, and vice-versa. If they are not making Microsaccades, Drifts, and Tremors – guess what? You lose the picture. Visual Fading occurs if there is no counteraction from your three Eye-Movements.

For Anatomy students: Google: Super Colliculus, MicroSaccades, Vestibulo-Ocular-Reflex, and the Striatum, which includes the caudate, and is part of the Basal Ganglia. Yes, Inquiring Minds care where the feet-grow-from.

Peripheral Vision

Let’s be pragmatic – what has my peripheral seeing done for me lately?
Get this: forget about the 6-8 hours of daily sleep (Delta Cycles per second),
you and I are using Foveal (central-narrow) sight almost sixteen hours daily.

You automatically Narrow your eyes for viewing video, TV, operating the computer, reading and writing, and foveal vision is Chronically Stressful. Stress causes angst, muscle tension, and anxiety.

When we activate (trigger) foveal-vision, we are using our Autonomic Nervous
System. Specifically, the Sympathetic Nervous System, and on it, the Fight-Or-Flight-Syndrome. So what?

We use Epinephrine (Adrenaline) the aggression hormone and Cortisol, the Stress hormone. Both chemicals affect important structures of your mind and body. They
excite (stress) us, not relax us.

The ParaSympathetic Nervous System causes relaxation (acetylcholine) and counterbalance the Fight-or-Flight Syndrome.


When you integrate both hemispheres (brains) of your Cerebral Cortex, you dramatically increase learning and memory. Would you spend two-minutes before
an exam, presentation or interview doing a Peripheral Vision strategy – to improve
your attitude, state-of-mind, and mood?

There is a connection between relaxation and Stress-Busting, and a 70 grade instead of an 85. Peripheral Vision exercise is baby-easy, relaxing, and produces immediate
results after just two-minutes of practice.

Stop to practice mentally drawing an Infinity Symbol after 15 minutes of computer work. Switch from narrow foveal (stressful) to wide (relaxation) peripheral vision.

1. Use your PASSIVE hand (left for 85% of us) and Air-Draw (make-believe)
an Infinity symbol. a/k/a – lemniscate ( < Latin: ribbon).
2. Size: at least two- feet long moving from extreme left to extreme right.
3. Infinity symbol looks like a reclining-number 8.
4. Keep it in front of your face; center it with your nose. It is 8-10 inches wide. Keep producing new infinity symbols for sixty seconds.
5. Switch to your Dominant hand, and continue for another sixty-seconds making wide sleeping (reclining number 8s) Infinity symbols.

Endwords: Create a new ritual of Air-Brushing Infinity Symbols at least
every 45 minutes for a two-minute break, you will improve your cognition, emotions, attention and comprehension up to 25%. That is statistically significant.

Would you be more competitive in your career by reading-and-remembering three (3) books, articles, and reports while your peers can hardly finish one?

Call us and ask us how. It may result in your next promotion. Discover how to create a physiological improvement by ridding yourself of chronic Stress.

copyright 2009 © H. Bernard Wechsler

Author's Bio: 

Author of Speed Reading For Professionals, published by Barron's.
Business partner of Evelyn Wood, creator of speed reading. Graduating
2 million, including the White House staffs of four U.S. Presidents.