Sense and Disability

I have no idea what it was called but I once saw this movie that may or may not have starred Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves. In this mysterious movie (mysterious because I can’t be sure it actually exists not because that was its genre. I can’t remember that either), the wide-eyed female lead is desperately in love with this handsome guy who just so happens to be blind.


Anyway in this one scene they were in a restaurant where she worked. For some reason she gave him a block of ice and told him that it was the colour blue. Then she gave him a hot piece of coal (and possibly third degree burns and told him that it was the colour red. Upon feeling the thing she gave him he “saw” the colours she was trying to show him (or at least he said he did to get into her pants).


It made me wonder if that could really work. Could you get an idea of a colour using other senses, even if you’ve never seen them before? Further, is it really true that your other senses are heightened when one of the senses is lost?


A common question posed to people who have lost their sight is “can you hear better now?” In my case, unfortunately not but I do have an insane sense of smell that I didn’t have before. Conversely, I have heard of cases where people who are looking for a specific address or building whilst driving have turned their radio down to help them see better. Surely this doesn’t work, does it? If it does perhaps I should remove my hearing-aid and visit an art gallery. I might get a lot more out of the art.


There is a saying that you eat with your eyes and I never quite understood it. How is that possible? Wouldn’t it obstruct your vision? I remember sitting down to one of the first meals I had eaten at home after going blind (from memory it was Spaghetti Bolognaise or similar). You would think that after a month of eating almost exclusively public hospital meals that this would be like going to Venice for Carnivale. But it wasn’t.


It was no reflection on the cooking, that was still as good as it had ever been and spaghetti bolognaise is one of my favourite things to eat. Yet for some reason I couldn’t enjoy the food in front of me like I used to. The same thing happened when eating Sushi (another favourite) and even chocolate cake. It didn’t stop me from eating it though!


At this time I was completely blind and eating consisted of me groping around on my plate until I stabbed something with my fork that was edible (my own form of hunting and gathering). I began to ponder, just as you are deterred from eating food that does not look appealing, is the desire to eat something diminished when you can’t see what is on the plate?


Not according to The Scientific American.


Apparently the way that the food looks (and presumably whether you can see it) does not affect the taste of it and the taste buds do not react based on whether you like the look of what you are eating or not. That only affects your perception of it.


So why did the enjoyment of the food improve as I regained some of my sight?


I am not a scientist but as I couldn’t actually see what I was putting into my mouth (or anything else) I was getting no visual stimuli. Perhaps the fact that I was so bored was what made the foods so boring.


Move over Marie Curie, I’m coming through!




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