Indiana University Bloomington
IU school of Optometry Visual T. Rowan Candy
Professor of Optometry
Cognitive Science and Neuroscience Programs
Principal Investigator
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What Can a Baby See?  


Human infants see poorly. At birth there are many immaturities in the eyes and visual parts of the brain. Newborns behave as
though they are looking through a dense fog - objects have to be bold, bright, and large to generate a response.

Try this website to see an estimate of the vision of newborns and young infants.

Visual responses develop very rapidly over the first 3-6 months. Infants move their eyes together and accurately by around 3
months, which soon leads to good depth perception.


Tinyeyes sequence
To create similar images with another picture visit


They start to respond to colored targets by around 2 months of age, and the development of acuity (detailed vision) takes somewhat longer. Adult levels of acuity are not reached until at least a year of age. This means that very young babies are not capable of detecting small and subtle features in a face - in fact they will frequently spend more time looking at the edge of a face than at the eyes.

Babies are also born with a wide range of refractive errors (spectacle prescriptions). They are typically far-sighted (hyperopic/hypermetropic) at birth, which means that the eye is underpowered. At this age infants can typically exert extra focussing effort to increase the eye’s power fortunately. The range of refractive errors usually reduces over the first two years or so after birth.

It is extremely important that a baby’s visual system experiences sharp, focused images as the visual part of the brain takes a
number of years to fully develop. Without a focused image and equal use of the two eyes during the early ‘critical period’ of
development, we know that the brain does not develop to use a weaker eye. This leads to ‘lazy eye’ or amblyopia. The child
then needs to have help to stimulate vision in the weaker eye. For this reason many organizations now recommend that infants’
eyes are examined at some point during their first year, to catch potential problems early.

This experience-dependent development is the central theme of research in our laboratory. We ask how the visual system uses
the available visual information to refine its development?


More Resources

Related Links
A demonstration of infants’ vision
Things to look out for with kids vision

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Would you like to participate in a study?

If you would like to participate in one of our studies, or if you would like to know more about what we are doing, please call our project coordinator, Stephanie Biehn at (812) 855-4959, or Email her at .