The situation

A woman, 30 years old, has been blind her entire life. She barely has a clue about the concept of seeing. Yet, one day as she walks in a park with her husband, her vision suddenly becomes bright with life and colors causing her to experience this feeling for the first time ever.

In this situation the woman naturally tells her husband she can see, the latter not being able to believe what he hears. To verify if it's true, he simply shows three fingers and ask:

How many fingers do you see?


Considering that the woman sees for the first time in her life, would she really be able to tell there is 'three' fingers?

After all, she barely knows that the visual cue shown to her is a 'hand' with 'fingers'. She may be able to guess it from the sensations she's been through her entire life, and make the connections between what she sees and what she felt by touching, but would she be able to make the connection so quickly?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well she would have been taught by touch what fingers are and how to count from a very young age. so i'd say yes. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2018 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ What does this have to do with worldbuilding? $\endgroup$
    – AngelPray
    Apr 15, 2018 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ I'm flagging this as off-topic becaues this does not have to do with worldbuilding. Try Psychology & Neuroscience SE $\endgroup$
    – NL628
    Apr 15, 2018 at 20:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Downvoted because it seems obvious that a person who has been blind their entire life can't REGAIN their sight. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 16, 2018 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ Hold on, I have a article on this... $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2018 at 2:25

1 Answer 1


Probably not )or at least only with difficulty), and certainly not immediately. There's a great deal of evidence that the visual centers in the brain have to learn how to see, and that until they do all the brain gets out of the eyes is noise. (This is similar to learning to understand speech.) For most people, both processes happen during early childhood.

An interesting question is whether there is a critical age by which your brain must learn to "see", as there is with learning to understand speech. This article suggests that there is and learning to see later in life is much harder than learning as an infant.

Here's another article which, again, suggests that the process of the brain learning to understand what the eyes see is not instantaneous.

  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. There's significant evidence that there is a critical window to develop the brain architecture to understand sight. Now, if she went blind after that window (or was cured during it) she should be fine. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2018 at 20:37

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