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Center for the History of Psychology

Theodor Erismann

The impressive abilities of our perception

The impressive abilities of our perception
The names of Theodor Erismann (1883-1961) and Ivo Kohler (1915-1985) are closely connected to the experiments with glasses of the department of psychology at the University of Innsbruck. These experiments served the study of the adaption of the perception system after the perception had been modified experimentally, and were first realized by Erismann in the early thirties of the twentieth century. Later continued with help of Erismann’s student and assistant Ivo Kohler, the experiments were meant to give information about the adjustment of one’s perception under the influence of reversing, prisms and colour glasses. Depending on the test conditions, the subject groups had to wear the glasses between six to 124 days.
From a methodic point of view, it is interesting to know that the experiments were performed under everyday conditions, examining not only the adaption of the perception system, but also the adjustment of the sensomotoric work of coordination and control. Therefore, it can be said that met the requirements for ecological validity, a demand not many studies have reached so far.
In 1951, Kohler was the first to publish a paper dealing with this topic, called „About the structure and transitions of the perceptual world. With a focus on conditional sensations.”
The Center for history of psychology is proud to be the keeper of Theodor Erismann’s estate. Following the wish of its former owner, the film “The reversing glasses and the upright vision” (1950) is now available for the public.

The reversing glasses and the upright vision