Science project

Seeing Straight and Responding Quickly: Peripheral vs. Central Vision


  • Use of a computer
  • A computer program that can be accessed for $9.95 for three months, which you will find here
  • Create a data sheet by drawing three vertical columns. Label the first one “Subject #”, the second one, "Reaction Time/Central Vision”, and the third, “Reaction Time/Peripheral Vision”

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Research the anatomy and physiology of the central (photopic) and peripheral (scotopic) visual systems.
  2. Sign up for access to the visual reaction time program at this website.
  3. Test subjects one at a time (run as many subjects as possible; 30 is ideal). Have the subject read the test instructions on the computer screen and in addition give him/her the following instructions: “You will be engaging in a visual reaction time task in which you will be presented with a vertical display of lights much like a traffic signal. You will be instructed to press the ‘down arrow’ as quickly as possible when the light changes from red to green, then to release it and prepare for the next trial. If you press the key before the light turns green, it will count as an error. Your task will be completed when you have responded correctly 20 times and your average reaction time will be recorded. You will perform two sets of trials, one in which you are looking directly at the light tree, and another in which you are focused on the edge of the computer screen and seeing the light tree your peripheral vision.”
  4. Tell the subject whether s/he will be participating in the central or peripheral task first. For the central task, instruct the subject to look directly at the light tree. For the peripheral task, instruct the subject to look at the edge of the computer screen. Record the reaction times for both tasks.
  5. Average the average reaction times across subjects for both the central and the peripheral tasks.
  6. Graph the results and discuss them in terms of the anatomy and physiology of the central (photopic) versus peripheral (scotopic) visual systems.

Terms/Concepts: Photopic visual system; Scotopic visual system ; Cones; Rods; Fovea


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