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I wear glasses and strength-adjusted sunglasses. Have been doing so for ten years. Recently, while on vacation in various foreign cities, I noticed a peculiar psychological effect: when I would take off my (sun)glasses while walking in the street, I felt this strong sense of becoming "grounded" in my environment, whereas with glasses on, there seemed to be some kind of mental barrier that reduced my overall perception -- paradoxically, obviously, because I need glasses to visually navigate anywhere that isn't my house.

My brother has even stronger glasses, and he confirmed having the same experience after I told him about what I experienced when taking off my glasses. He has since described it as if wearing glasses "makes sight feel like a video" or "the effect of looking through a window".

Is there a suitable word that describes how reality becomes more distant when (e.g.) wearing glasses?


As for the effect itself, I have several hypotheses for the effect itself:

  1. The frame of one's glasses is always peripherally visible, so it may affect how we perceive what's inside the frame. Alternatively, it has something to do with the field of vision not having a homogeneous sharpness past the frame. (Neither of us has tried wearing contacts to confirm this.)
  2. Coatings on glasses shift colours away from their natural form (sometimes very noticeably, sometimes perhaps subtly), so there might be some deep subconscious expectation being violated when wearing colour-shifting glasses.
  3. Our vision is so bad that taking off glasses is like being put into a sensory deprivation tank. This seems unlikely though, because it sets in immediately after taking off the glasses, without delay.
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  • Are you both long-sighted?
    – Anton
    Aug 6 at 17:42
  • @Anton Yes, we're both near-sighted; otherwise we wouldn't need glasses to navigate outdoors.
    – Mew
    Aug 8 at 17:56
  • Thanks. I should have asked about short not long. Careless of me. But I have offered a possible explanation in an answer box to complement another answer.
    – Anton
    Aug 8 at 20:53

4 Answers 4

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Wearing glasses places the wearer at a remove from the world around them.

From Merriam-Webster Unabridged:

remove, n.: 2b: a degree distant (as in derivation or relationship) : a grade or stage of separation from the immediate or direct : a step apart or away

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  • I like this, although it's at a level of abstraction that isn't specific to sensory experience. The "distantness" in the title falls in the same category.
    – Mew
    Aug 6 at 16:05
  • @Mew Being a general abstraction sounds right to me. I've never heard of anyone feeling about glasses as you do (windshields, yes), so doubt there's a word or phrase for it. Aug 6 at 23:25
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    I have complemented this with a diagrammatic suggestion that I have been compelled to put in an answer box.
    – Anton
    Aug 8 at 20:51
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Your experience of the world may be said to be "mediated" by the glasses. The American Psychological Association defines "mediate experience" thus:

conscious awareness and interpretation of external events and stimuli. Mediate experience provides meaning and additional information not contained in the event or stimulus itself. It is contrasted with immediate experience, the elements or characteristics of the event or stimuli as perceived directly and without interpretation.

Removing the glasses provides the "immediate experience".

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  • Today I realized the im- in immediate is the negative prefix
    – No Name
    Aug 7 at 2:42
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There's an expression or idiom that literally uses the word "glass."

To keep or put person(s)/thing(s) behind glass or behind a glass wall refers to metaphorically erecting an invisible barrier between one (oneself or another) and the person(s)/thing(s) on the other side of that invisible barrier such that there's an illusion of togetherness but the person(s)/thing(s) are actually at a safe distance from the person(s)/thing(s), even walled off from the person(s)/thing(s), metaphorically speaking.

There's also a version that uses "behind bulletproof glass" for extreme cases where the illusion of togetherness disguises an utter and absolute untouchability, especially in an emotional sense but not necessarily as it could just as well refer to a physical sense, like overprotective parents who never let their child have any friends, do anything adventurous, or really go anywhere in hopes of keeping their child from any possible harm (physical, emotional, etc.) that could befall them might be gossiped about as keeping their child "behind bulletproof glass."

Anyway, with all that in mind, you might say something like:

"When I took my sunglasses off, I suddenly realized I'd been keeping myself behind a glass wall, literally, but now, having come out from behind that glass wall, I felt one with Prague, a part of her."

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There is no way to put pictures in comments so please forgive me for writing here not as an answer but as a possible pictorial explanation for the way you feel and as a complement to another answer that suggests "remove".

The correction for short sight is to use a concave lens (coloured green below). Each side of the lens bends incoming light as shown by the red rays. So the eye (bottom of picture), which would normally see out between the straight blue rays, now sees out within the red rays. Consequently the flowers, which normally occupy a third of the field of view , now occupy very much less of the field. So they appear smaller, more remote, removed from you, a smaller part of the whole field of view between the red rays.

Does this accord with what you feel?

enter image description here

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