“Second Sight”

Psychologists have learned that individuals whom are blind are still capable of “seeing”, but how is this so? Research shows that vision still occurs without conscious awareness of doing so, not with the use of the eyes, but with the mind. After a conducted experiment several years ago, a participant altered scientific history by miraculously passing their visual tests despite being partially blind. He was asked to reach out and touch the experimenter’s hand, that was purposely placed within his blindspot. Oddly enough, he touched it every time even tough he physically could not see it. He claimed he had no recollection of the location of the experimenter’s hands in which he was asked to point out, yet mysteriously points to it unaware. This has become known as the term “Blindsight”. Blindsight had been originally discovered decades ago, but had its doubts of whether this theory had evidence to support it. Referred to as a “second sight”, this article explains that individuals whom are visually impaired can in fact see and become aware of their surroundings even if they aren’t consciously able to, but their mind does it for them.

Christopher Allen of Cardiff University was intrigued to find another participant of his, who was completely blind, could walk to the other side of the room avoiding any obstacles they placed in front of him, without consciously being aware of doing so. He had no recollection of even moving away from these objects. He thought he had walked in a straight line. After reading this, I began to wonder whether animals could experience this same “second sight” as humans do ?

In fact they can! A sweet, furry, golden retriever named Chewbacca seemed to provide some evidence of it being possible. Her owners believed she went blind from a fairly young age, so she learned to adapt quickly to her surroundings. They say that any bystanders would not even notice she were blind because of how well she had adapted and due to the use of her cognitive map. A “cognitive map” is a mental representation that helps acquire and decode certain information about relative location and  attributes of everyday life. For dogs, this means the food bowl, water bowl, toys, socks, you name it. Chewbacca’s skills are so impressive that she knows exactly where she has buried her toys in the backyard and can even “see” when furniture or objects are moved around. All they simply have to do is touch the object  in front of them, and assure them that the object has been relocated to that spot.  After reading this article, one can assume that canine and human consciousness are quite similar.

Because there is still more research to do, there’s no definite answers or explanations for how the human mind or dog mind works. Could a dog determine a new piece of furniture in front of them without being told so? Are humans’ cognitive maps as strong as dogs’? Will there be more to discover about blindsight or is it too complex? These studies have opened up new paths to discovering how the human mind works, and who knows maybe in the future we will discover more about the canine’s mind.