I'm creating a world my protagonist will visit with humanoid inhabitants that have a peculiar feature: their eye sockets are in the palms of their hands, not unlike the Pale Man Pan's Labyrinth.

enter image description here

The big difference is that they are not evil. They are regular people in a regular society just like humans, except they have this one distinct feature.

What are some unique differences in day-to-day living they would experience?

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    $\begingroup$ I imagine it would be a problem carrying....well...anything. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Jan 19 '16 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ Please do not post answers in the comment section. $\endgroup$ – user1717828 Jan 19 '16 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site...thats not really an answer...hence... @Draco18s using the comment section...for its intended purpose. $\endgroup$ – James Jan 19 '16 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ I find it hard to even imagine my eyes being that far apart, drawing in entirely separate pieces of information. That in itself would be an interesting experience. $\endgroup$ – The Anathema Jan 19 '16 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ Is there anything in your world to resolve the obvious issues regarding scratching of the eye by constantly grabbing things? It would not take many mishaps before the eyes are useless. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 19 '16 at 23:30

lots of great answers here, there's something else that people haven't considered though:

Depth perception

We perceive depth using a concept called Binocular Disparity. What this means is that we get two different images through our eyes, and our brain merges the two into one image, perceiving the difference as "Depth". The greater the shift in location horizontally between the two images (in the human case where our eyes are horizontally separated), the further away the object is.

Now, we learn just how far away an object is through trial and error. This is difficult enough, but it's made easier by the fact that the relative position of our eyes to each other is constant... oh. Woops. This guy now has a serious problem. If he wants to figure out how far away something is, he:

  1. Has to have both eyes "looking" at it.
  2. Has to know what that specific disparity amounts to in terms of distance depending on how he is holding his hands.

Say what? Well, if he holds his hands out wide, the disparity between the images from the two eyes will have a greater shift than if he holds his hands close together. And that's assuming he's good at holding his hands on a single plane. I have no idea what effect it would have if one of the eyes was at an angle. Let's not even start thinking about how you'd keep track of the mechanics if their hands were moving!

That's hard enough to write, let alone to do. That's an immensely difficult calculation, and while he'd probably learn to do it instinctively to a certain extent (brains are amazing), the chances are that they'd have to develop a coping mechanism whereby if they want to judge depth they move their hands into a "known configuration", like, hey, holding their hands in front of their face. Funny how it comes back to that.

There's something else related though that would be even more weird:

Conflicting Images

I hold one hand with the eye facing in front of me. I hold the other hand with the eye facing backwards. Result: AAARRGGGGHHRHGGFGGHR * brain melt *.

There's something else weird you can do to screw with eyes, that's called Binocular Rivalry. It's where you feed two different images into the eyes and watch your brain struggle to figure out wtf it is looking at. Generally, people either have a "dominant eye" which comes out on top, rendering you blind to the other image, or they find their vision switching between the two as they fight for dominance, or in really weird situations, the brain tries to merge the two images together into one seriously screwed up combination, depending on how similar the images are.

Now, this happens because our brains expect very similar images. It's likely that a species that didn't evolve with such a convenience would likely develop a VERY different brain. Maybe they'd even split the images coming from the two hands into different processing nodes in the brain, and maybe they could even see in two directions simultaneously. That's going to result in a being that on a psychological level differs massively from humans. It's also likely that they would treat the input from the two eyes independently, and on the whole they'd probably be epic ad multi-tasking. On the other hand, they would have hardly any depth perception at all, having to rely on visual cues like shadows and partial obscurity behind other objects to judge distance.

I'll tell you something, camouflage clothing becomes amazing under those circumstances. The chameleon would be their worst nightmare. All you'd have to do to sneak up on them would be to have a bunch of tall people far away and a small person walking up a lot closer, they wouldn't know till the last minute that one of them was a lot closer than they thought.

Death by Parallax. Awkward.*

*Yeah, alright, they'd probably develop other coping mechanisms for judging immediate proximity. But that isn't as funny.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer really reverberates the point that these are people that humans would have evolved into had we had this mutation. Many comments/answers seem to interpret the proposed race as We suddenly teleported eye sockets from a human test group's face to their palms. $\endgroup$ – user1717828 Jan 21 '16 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Once you use the term "hands" as we do, and "eyes" as we do you are forced to assume the problems of seeing with your primary carrying limb, as that is what hands are. If you have some other limb with an eye on it, not used for what hands are, then it is a stretch to call them hands. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 21 '16 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ @oldcat, agreed I've posed such a question in the comments on the question itself, asking just how different he'll allow the species to be. When I get an answer I'm probably going to edit my answer a bit to match $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Jan 22 '16 at 9:31

Hands are now useless.

We use our hands to carry lots of things. This generally involves curling our fingers around something, which in turn blocks the palms of our hands.

If we had eyes on our palms, they would be blocked whenever we need to use our hands for something. Meaning that we wouldn't be able to see. This is not something that is acceptable. Therefore, these people will have to significantly reduce the amounts of things they do with their hands.

I prefer to see when I drive a car. Not being able to see generally leads to people dying.

enter image description here
Image taken out of context from A Double Shot of Recovery, a blog that's completely unrelated and was only found by me ~30 seconds before adding this picture.

You can either give up using your hands or give up vision. The choice is yours.

Random other things I thought of later

  • Injuries to hands (e.g. burning, lopped of limbs) would severely hurt or blind eyes
  • Your hands may be more sensitive, because of more nerves in the area (just a guess)
  • It's much easier to get dirt, dust, etc. in your eyes
  • Glasses are much harder to wear (are monocles all the rage now?)
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    $\begingroup$ It's not widely realized, but almost as important to tool-using as the opposable thumb is the ability to curl the little finger more strongly than the ring and middle fingers. This provides a power base for the thumb/forefinger to work against. Having a sensitive eye in the palm would obviously prevent this function. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jan 20 '16 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ You could drive using one hand, and just give up binocular vision/depth perception. Or have cars with a different pedal configuration (like one rocker-pedal that covers acceleration and breaking, and a second rocker-pedal that covers turning left/right). Or even receptacles on the steering wheel that the eyes can slot into, with a display inside that projects camera feeds from the exterior of the vehicle. $\endgroup$ – aroth Jan 20 '16 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand, the cry of "Look Ma, No Hands!!!" would be the mark of a responsible driver! $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 21 '16 at 23:49

By spreading hands you could significantly increase perception accuracy of distance to distant objects (stereopsis),

Basically you can become human(?) version of coincidence-rangefinder

  • They could cover more of their heads when it's cold, like pulling the hat all the way down to the nose

  • Can't do many two-handed things, but maybe there's already a lot of disabled-people tools for living in a one-handed world? Every two-handed actions removed eye sight

  • They can stick their hands around corners. Hide-and-seek champions, yo (they can be covered in things and only show a little bit of themselves for periscopic view

  • Maybe more speech-to-text type things for digital writing, pens still work as normal

  • participates in fewer activities that require depth perception

But when you say the protagonist "visit with humanoid inhabitants that have a peculiar feature" then you're implying their entire society is like this? How would you answer this from an evolutionist perspective?

you now have people that easily can get up-close to anything in arms reach. Are they capable of this due to how they get food? Does the eyes have a good microscopic-like view of things, maybe they are used to inspect their food closely?

The problem with this question is that it's easy to picture what a human person who suddenly had his eyes in his hands, which means the question of "day-to-day-impact" is harder to answer when we are actually dealing with humanoid aliens.

  1. you likely wouldn't shake hands.
  2. your reactions would be slower, since your eyes have a much farther distance to send impulses.
  3. it would be much easier to blind someone. Breaking an arm or just a strong punch could damage the optic nerve.
  4. "I was just rubbing my eyes"...
  5. It would be very difficult to see where you are going when you are carrying anything at all.

Because their eyes are so close to fingers, they might become very good at doing small, precise work that utilizes tools that are usable by fingers, instead of whole hands. For example, fixing mechanical clocks would be much easier, because your hand doesn't obstruct the view as much.

That might mean that during the evolution most of their kind would mostly develop eye-sight that's perfect to see small objects close to eyes.

However, my own theory sounds improbable unless one of the first things they develop is a way for their eyes to see in environments with poor lighting, as the hands would just block natural lighting sources while doing fine-work.

  • $\begingroup$ But this eye is facing away from the fingers. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 21 '16 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Oldcat but it says in the question that the eyes are in the palms of the hands, no? That means the eye is facing towards fingers. $\endgroup$ – Nikita Akopjans Jan 22 '16 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ The palms of my hands are not facing my fingers. They are at a 90 degree angle. Hold your hand flat in front of your face. The palm is facing your face. The fingers are pointing up. An eye in that palm would see your face, not his fingers. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 22 '16 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Oldcat Yeah, but the eye has the ability to look up, for instance. It's not static. And not just that, when you start doing anything with your fingers, like tapping at your keyboard, your palms are facing the object your fingers are interacting with $\endgroup$ – Nikita Akopjans Jan 25 '16 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ You can't look up to see your hair. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 25 '16 at 17:47

Hand dexterity becomes synonymous with situational awareness.

Carrying objects is trickier: one cannot use his/her hands easily, because of the pressure on the eyes. Backpacks are way more common than handbags.

If the eyes are removable, like in the movies, and interchangeable, swapping eyes between two people can be useful for spying - or, in a literal sense, put oneself in other's position.

If the eyes work outside one's body, eye selfie sticks can be useful.


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