Last semester I took the brave decision to add Visual Perception as one of my modules. The line between brave and stupid is often quite blurry. I thought the module would offer me a great insight into how the visual system works and it really did. But it meant some very special preparation in order to pass the exam.
The majority of the concepts were described diagrammatically on the course, something which meant I would have to take a slightly different angle to learning in order to achieve a greater understanding of visual perception as well as pass the exam. I had to try and visualise the concepts that were being described something that became quite challenging when you have never seen them represented in the real world. For example the visual illusions – I was fortunate enough to have seen some of these illusions while I had sight. But for others the concept of a visual illusion without actually being able to perceive it is quite odd.
This led to the lecturer helping to describe certain concepts in order for me to contemplate what was going on. A nice example is colour constancy – where you perceive a colour to be the same regardless of the light source. This to me sounded strange, as I had never been aware of colour constancy while I could still perceive colour.
Overall it resulted in an incredibly elaborate revision process which took around 28 days. That isn’t 28 days of an hour here and there. Thats 28 days of relentless revision. Amongst attempting to conceptualise visual illusions I had to memorise algebraic representations of colour opponency, template matching complexity and a whole host of others. Then there were the diagrams and graphs. To obtain the highest mark in the exam you were required to draw diagrams. Now I can probably draw a stick man as well as the next guy but drawing something like this….
Not a chance. So I had to have the diagram described to me. Memorise it, then be able to relay it to a scribe during the exam for them to recreate it. I memorised around 15-20 diagrams. Admittedly everyone else taking the exam also had to memorise the diagrams, but perhaps not memorise and then verbally practice the best way to articulate it in exam conditions for someone to recreate it.
While the module proved a challenge overall it was interesting to practice a few things which the sighted may not have. For one, not only was the exam a test of how well I could memorise visual concepts I had never seen, it also tested my ability to succinctly communicate under a time constraint.