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trickface's avatar

Do blind people see as we do when they dream?

Asked by trickface (2311 points ) June 9th, 2008

If a blind person has never seen the world through their eyes, then what do they envisage when they dream during sleep?

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8 Answers

XCNuse's avatar

it depends, if they ever had sight, if so, then it is said that yes they will see things

but, if they were born blind, then they won’t see things, because well for the obvious reason, their mind doesn’t know what shapes are or anything, except via touch, but it doesn’t know what colors or either so..

soundedfury's avatar

I’ve been told that people who’ve been blind since birth only have auditory dreams, since they have no frame of reference for visual aspects. Those who have had some measure of sight will continue to have visual dreams, which I can imagine is a nightmare if you haven’t come to terms with your progressive blindness.

robmandu's avatar

I always found the cognitive psychology classes in college really fascinating for this kind of stuff.

shilolo's avatar

Here is a summary of recent review and critique of a report that says that congenitally blind can see. Apparently, toddlers who had sight but then lost it (before the age of 5) do not have visual imagery in their sleep.

sndfreQ's avatar

Welcome to the collective trickface! FYI:

http://www.fluther.com/disc/12111/do-blind-people-dream/
http://www.fluther.com/disc/8676/dreams/

(This question was asked recently)

elchoopanebre's avatar

This is a great question! -Fascinating subject and something I’ve always wondered myself.

dabbler's avatar

neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a great article for NewYorker a few years back describing the experiences of a man who had been blind from birth. When the man was in middle age medical science had progressed to the point that the blindness could be corrected and the operation was a success. Following the operation though he had no idea what anything was or meant visually. It was very disconcerting and unsettling for him an it took years for him to learn the most basic of ways to interpret the info his eyes were delivering. I would guess that fellow did not dream visually at least before the operation.

robmandu's avatar

@dabbler, best we can really say is that we just don’t know if he did or not.

You seem to reach your conclusion that if the man had been dreaming visually, then he’d be better able to interpret the new visual information coming in from his repaired sight. But I think it possible – if not really likely – that maybe the internal visual language in his mind was so radically different than the new information coming from his eyes that it was difficult for him to make the translation.

One analogy I can think of is when I attended Gymnasium (high school) in Germany. I was learning to speak German on the fly, while at the same time attending classes in algebra. Ever try to learn a new language (like math) through a foreign language (like German)? I found it to be nigh impossible.

My personal opinion is that he probably did not dream visually before having his sight restored as his unconscious had no references to draw upon. It’s just that I think it a fallacy to try and reach that conclusion based upon his performance after the surgery. I wonder if anyone asked that gentleman what his dreams consisted of both pre- and post-op?

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