Friday, July 1, 2016
An article in an alumni magazine caught my eye. The headline read: “Recent graduate focuses on myth of color-blindness correction.” The clear implication by labeling it as a myth was that colorblindness correction was impossible, or at least not within the reach of current technology, and that some people may be wasting their money.
The recent graduate was part of a research team investigating whether red-green color vision defects can be corrected using commercially sold glasses that filter different wavelengths. The brief article goes on to say that this latest research has not yet been published but stated that a controlled study led to the conclusion that “not only do the glasses not help, but they can makes some aspects of color vision worse.” (Since the findings have not yet been published, there is no way to tell the sample size or how carefully the study was designed.) They only summarize their findings that some people are “desperate for a ‘cure’ and [this study] can potentially save people from wasting their money.”
Wasting money on myths is one of my favorite signs of problems with critical thinking, not doing the research before investing in a “miracle cure,” so I went on to investigate.
I found a Forbes article from April 2015: A reporter decided to try the special glasses, and said yes, there was a difference. But he added: “As vibrant as [green] leaves and [red] bricks now appear, when presented with a color blindness test, both my brother [who is also colorblind] and I still fail it. And there’s another major issue that needs to be addressed: These things ain’t cheap. Non-prescription versions of [the seller’s] color blindness glasses range from roughly $340 to $440.” He concludes by referring to them as a luxury item that allows some men to get the effect of seeing better color.
The ads for these glasses consist of customers raving about their personal experiences, and similar testimonials. According to another source their “viral marketing success” has been fueled in part by a product testing program, “where would-be wearers can apply to earn a free pair through participating in certain company initiatives (like talking to the media).”
The author of that second article, who is also colorblind, gave them a try. He was disappointed at first when he didn’t experience the overwhelming emotion he had seen in the promotional videos, but after some time he became very satisfied. Though he still cannot pass the standard Ishihara colorblindness test, and the company clearly states the glasses will not allow this; he feels they are very helpful in, for instance, allowing him to better identify the color of green and red traffic signals. Based on his own experience in elementary school, he thinks the glasses may help children do better at color-related tasks and not be automatically labeled by teachers as slow. (Not all schools regularly test children for colorblindness.)
It appears the jury is still out on the colorblindness correcting glasses. True, they don’t make it possible to pass the standard numbers-on-flashcards type of test and are quite expensive, but some who have tried them (and not been financially influenced by the company) say they have noticed a difference. It will be interesting to see the latest scientific findings when they are finally published.