What is the analogous word to 'parse' in the context of seeing things?

That is, how do you refer to the process of working out what it is you are looking at?

eg. When I opened my eyes, it took me a few seconds to (blank) the scene.

  • Appreciate.....? – user140086 Feb 16 '16 at 18:14
  • The process of "parsing" a picture in your brain is quite complex, but quite unconscious. But "parsing" words is also quite unconscious if you learn the language as a child and never get into the study of the language structure academically. If you want to know the process used by the brain to understand pictures you'd have to study up on brain science, just as you study up on syntax/semantics to understand the process of language parsing. – Hot Licks Feb 16 '16 at 18:17
  • @HotLicks I consciously parse complex sentences (which come up fairly often in my line of work). I also sometimes consciously have to determine what the arrangement of colours I see actually represents in terms of objects. I don't understand the relevance of your comments to my question. – Jessica B Feb 16 '16 at 18:21
  • 1
    "figure out" ...? – Graffito Feb 16 '16 at 18:26
  • 1
    "Comprehend", " fathom"? – NVZ Feb 16 '16 at 19:03

process - to integrate sensory information received so that an action or response is generated.

When I opened my eyes, it took me a few seconds to process the scene.


When I opened my eyes, it took me a few seconds to (blank) the scene.

take in

  • "Take in" may not be the most technically descriptive term but to a native speaker, it says it all! +1 – Kristina Lopez Feb 16 '16 at 19:08
  • My first thought too. Hotly followed by 'figure (out)'. – Dan Feb 16 '16 at 21:40


You can definitely say "when I woke up it took my mind a few seconds to parse the images before my eyes."

It is completely normal to use this in computer image recognition, image processing.

And that brings us to "process" - "when I woke up it took my mind a few seconds to process the images before my eyes." or "...to process what i was seeing.

Next, there's a common phrase...

"It took me awhile to take that in!"

"Take that in" means "absorb and understand". It is used specifically when you see some bizarre scene which, well, takes you a while to take in. It would be rather like saying "to digest that information", particularly about a surprising visual scene or explicit visual puzzle.

Finally "interpret" as suggested in a comment. "I woke up and it took my mind a few seconds to interpret what my eyes were seeing."


Would grasp or get a hold of work?


Understand, perhaps. Not a remarkable word, but fits the bill.

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