skip graphical navigation
PBS KidsZOOM Home Back to Activity
Science Rocks!

Peripheral Vision


your results

Sent in by:
Henry of Bakersfield, CA

Catch this ZOOMsci out of the corner of your eye!

Materials Needed

  • different colored paper
  • different colored markers
  • big piece of butcher paper or a page of newspaper



  1. When you see something out of the corner of your eye, that's called peripheral vision.
  2. To find out how well you can see something moving, or color, shape and detail with your peripheral vision, cut out a different shape from each different color of paper. The ZOOMers used a square, a circle and a triangle.
  3. Write a different letter of the alphabet on each shape.
  4. Stand on a piece of butcher paper or newspaper and have a friend draw a semi-circle about arm's length away from your feet.
  5. Look straight ahead while your friend holds a shape and walks around the outside of the semi-circle she drew.
  6. Tell her when you first notice anything moving, what shape she has, what color it is and what letter (detail) is on it. Be sure to keep looking straight ahead!
  7. Ask another friend to write "motion," "color," "detail" or "shape" at those spots on the semi circle where you first saw those things.
  8. Now switch roles and use a different colored marker to mark the semi-circle for each friend.
  9. Compare your results. Did you see the same things at the same points on the semi-circle? Did you see each thing in the same order? Did some people see something first but see others last? How good is your peripheral vision? Is it better when you're in a bright room or a dark room? Come up with some ideas to test, and be sure to send your results to ZOOM.

Ready for the sci scoop? The back of your eye is called the retina. The retina has special cells called rods and cones that catch light. You can find rods all over your eye, but most of the cones are in the center. Both rods and cones help you see, but only cones help you see color. When a shape is out to the side, and you look straight ahead, you can only use the corner of your eye-your peripheral vision-to see it. This part of your eye doesn't have very many cones. That's why you can see motion there, but not color. When a shape is closer to the center your vision, you see it with the part of your eye that has more cones, so you can see color. You can also tell what shape it is. When a shape is in front of you, you use the center of your eye to see it, which is packed with cones. That's why it is easier to tell what letter is on the shape.

Some of your Results

Keturah, age 10 of Springfield, MO wrote:
I saw better than my sister, Hannah, and she cheated. although I made the cards. I got all of them on one spot bcause I made them.

Anj, age 10 of Toronto, ON wrote:
It dissapeared when it was down I tried too close my right eye and look at the O and the X did dissapear.

Caprice, age 10 of Milwaukee, WI wrote:
I could see the letters, shapes and color at the same time.

Christina, age 11 of Chicago, IL wrote:
I could see almost where my ears are! But then I've practiced a lot. My friends and I did it and used 3 lettered words like "mom" or "the". We had a lot of fun.

Ameya, age 8 of Scottsboro, AL wrote:
I tried the the Peripheral Vision thing it worked. And I found out something not only you can do it with your right eye shut you can also do it with your Left eye shut. The circle is on the left side of the paper when your right eye is shut, right. So the circle has to be on the right side of the paper then you can shut your left eye.

Gracie, age 13 of Opelousas, LA wrote:
Two of my friends and I did it for a science fair project and it was pretty fun, but I don't think we did everything right. If we did do it right, then I had the best peripheral vision.

Samantha & Isaac of Freeport, ME wrote:
It dissiperd with any shapes, letters and small words like: was, hi bye mostley three letter words work the best!

Samantha, age 12 of N. Tonawanda, NY wrote:
I did the same thing and I put a circle on one piece of paper, a square on another and a star on another. The same thing happened on all of them. The shapes disappered at the same disstances when I did it. I was wondering what would happen if you did it with your right eye instead of your left eye. Instead of putting the x on the right put it on the left. So I did it and I got the same results as the left eye. I wonder if it would be different if someone else did it. I wonder if it matters if it makes a difference if you are young, old, wear glasses or have contacks. Will it make a differen then?

Devin, age 12 of Ft.Walton Beach, FL wrote:
I did this for my school science project. I saw the different things easily.

Annie of San Antonio, TX wrote:
You could see the color first then the shape then the letter. It was neat how one came after the other. Some people saw the shape before the color or thought green was blue from the corner of their eye. It was fun to play with your vision.

Rachel, age 12 of Mansfield, MA wrote:
Three of my friends and I tried this experiment. It was interesting, because we each had a different point on the semi-circle where we saw motion, color, or shape. We learned a lot about the retina and peripheral vision.

Mindy, age 13 of Lake Oswego, OR wrote:
When my dad did it, he could not do it with out looking to the side. Maybe thats beacause he has glasses. Me and my mom did OK, but not great. It may be because that we don't have glasses, but we do not have 50/50 vision. My sister with no eye problems at all did great! I think it depnds on if you have 50/50 vision or not.

Mary & Nicholas of Livonia, MI wrote:
We saw the movement and color first and then the shape and then the letter when it was in front of us. We also tried it with a person on each side with different shapes and colors and letters. We found that it's easier if the shape is at the height of your eye and not your shoulder! It was also hard to keep staring forward and not look at the paper.

not yet implemented