New research published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that the 3D or "stereoscopic" vision of dressmakers is as sharp as their needles.
Stereoscopic vision is the brain's ability to decode the flat 2D optical information received by both eyes to give us the depth of perception needed to thread a needle, catch a ball, park a car and generally navigate a 3D world.
Using computerized perceptual tasks, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Geneva, Switzerland, tested the stereoscopic vision of dressmakers and other professionals, and found dressmakers to be the most eagle-eyed.
To experience what it means to have stereoscopic vision, focus on a visual target. Blink one eye while still staring at your target. Then blink the other eye. The background should appear to shift position. With stereoscopic vision, the brain's visual cortex merges the 2D viewpoints of each eye into one 3D image.
For the study, participants viewed objects on a computer screen through a stereoscope and judged the distances between objects, and between themselves and the objects. Researchers recorded their visual precision and found that, overall, dressmakers performed markedly better than their non-dressmaker counterparts in visual acuity.
While it has generally been assumed that surgeons, dentists and other medical professionals who perform precise manual procedures would have superior stereovision, results from the new research show dressmakers to be 80 percent more accurate than non-dressmakers at calculating the distance between themselves and the objects they were looking at, and 43 percent better at estimating the distance between objects.
"We found dressmakers have superior stereovision, perhaps because of the direct feedback involved with fine needlework," study lead author Adrien Chopin, a postdoctoral researcher in visual neuroscience at UC Berkeley, was quoted as saying in a news release.
Noting that an estimated 10 percent of people suffer from some form of stereoscopic impairment, and 5 percent suffer from full stereo blindness, Chopin said researchers are still determining whether dressmaking sharpens stereoscopic vision, or whether dressmakers are drawn to the trade because of their visual stereo-acuity.
A better understanding of dressmakers' stereoscopic superpowers will inform ongoing efforts to train people with visual impairments such as amblyopia or "lazy eye" to strengthen their stereoscopic vision, Chopin said, adding that improved stereoscopic vision may also be key to the success of military fighters, athletes and other occupations that require keen hand-eye coordination.