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Retinal Disparity in Psychology: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Retinal Disparity Defined
  • 0:51 Examples of Retinal Disparity
  • 2:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara DeLecce

Tara has taught Psychology and has a master's degree in evolutionary psychology.

Retinal disparity is one of the many ways in which humans can perceive depth. Retinal disparity is at play in many situations, such as driving or avoiding stepping off of a cliff.

Retinal Disparity Defined

Retinal disparity is defined as the way that your left eye and your right eye view slightly different images. You might be asking yourself, 'How, then, is our vision just one continuous image?' The two slightly different images produced in both eyes are blended into one view when both eyes are open, and this is one of the ways in which human depth perception is possible.

Retinal disparity is important in gauging how far away objects are. The more difference (or greater disparity) between the image each eye has of the same object, the closer it is to you. The farther away an object is, on the other hand, the more similar it looks from viewing it with each eye alone. This is really adaptive as it allows us to determine how far away cliffs are, or predators, or a deep gorge so that these can be avoided and aid in survival.

Examples of Retinal Disparity

You can easily demonstrate retinal disparity for yourself. Grab a nearby object (a pencil perhaps) and hold it in front of your nose. Then, close your right eye and take notice of the view you have of the object with just your left eye. Then, do the same thing, switching eyes. If the object is right in front of your nose, each eye should give you a very different view of the object. Now, keep moving the object slowly away from your face while checking the different views from each eye. You should notice that the farther away the object gets from your face, the more similar each view is from each eye.

This is how retinal disparity appears in each eye. Notice the little house is visible from the perspective of the right eye but not the left.
Retinal Disparity

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