Recovery from Early Blindness

  SECTION 5 OF 8 [1] [2] [3.1] [3.2] [3.3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [Ap] DOWNLOAD PDF  

R L Gregory and J G Wallace

Reproduced from Experimental Psychology Society Monograph No. 2 1963

5. Observations Made Six Months After Operation

We visited S.B. at his home six months after the operation and spent a day with him in his familiar surroundings.

At his house we saw his shed, in which were hand tools for cobbling and woodwork and a new circular saw which he had recently installed and which he demonstrated with great pride. He apparently used it only for cutting up fire wood, but he operated the machine with frightening confidence.

The shed was fitted with a coke stove, and he informed us that he had installed this himself while blind, a statement confirmed by his wife, though he may of course have had some help. He was a keen gardener before his operation, growing mainly Vegetables and setting them out in rows with strings. He described how he used to try to picture the plants, and particularly liked their smell.

S.B. was clearly proud of his ability to deal with the tasks of making and mending: he was an aggressive man determined to tackle all that was possible to him with unusual perseverance and on the whole successfully. He used to go for long cycle rides, being guided by a friend's hand on his shoulder, and he took particular pride in the installation of the stove in his shed. But talking to him now he seemed dispirited, and we formed a strong impression that his sight was to him almost entirely disappointing. It enabled him to do a little more, and he had a strong desire to drive a car, but it became clear that the opportunities it afforded him were less than he had imagined. We found a still active middle-aged man of fairly high intelligence, but with a labourer's job and unable to read more than a few simple words. His income and status were obviously lower than they would have been if he had not been so handicapped, and these facts were very clear to him. He described the world as rather drab; he still to a great extent lived the life of a blind man, sometimes not bothering to put on the light at night, and he still made little of the normal visual occupations of the cinema or television. He did not get on well with his neighbours, who regarded him as "odd", and his workmates played tricks on him and teased him for being unable to read.

At his favourite "locals" he cheered up considerably, and was clearly regarded as a "character". He was able to recognise his friends at a distance of at least fifteen feet, from one bar to another, and he would now cross roads with some confidence. He certainly relied a great deal on vision, but we formed the impression that this very reliance cost him his self-respect, for he had been proud of his abilities when the handicap was obvious, but now his previous achievements seemed paltry and his present position almost foolish. He was not a man to talk freely, but was obviously depressed, and we felt that he had lost more than he had gained by recovery of sight.

In view of his depressed state, we felt it best not to undertake formal tests. We did, however, ascertain that he was able to find his way about without the use of his eyes, and that he could detect the presence of houses and doors by the echoes from his footsteps. He was still fascinated by mirrors, and he still noted improvement in his ability to see. In particular, he said that he noted more and more the blemishes in things, and would examine small irregularities and marks in paint work or wood. Quite recently he had been struck by how objects changed their shape when he walked round them. He would look at a lamp post, walk round it, stand studying it from a different aspect, and wonder why it looked different and yet the same.

continues with Section 6 - The End of the Case

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