What might be the opposite of tunnel vision? What I mean is instead of seeing only one's direct path, the person is so distracted by the texture of the sidelines, goes so far as to obscure the goal at the end of the tunnel.

  • 1
    Distracted? Spread too thin? All over the place? ADHD? Jan 16 at 22:37
  • on the periphery Jan 17 at 5:01
  • One phrase that's often used is: Ignoring the substance and chasing the shadows.
    – cph_sto
    Jan 22 at 12:36
  • 360 degree vision? Fish eye vision, as in van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding? 1,000 mile gaze?
    – user862888
    Feb 16 at 3:53

3 Answers 3


One phrase is

Can't see the wood for the trees.

Farlex has

fail to grasp the main issue because of over-attention to details

  • 1
    I've always heard it as "can't see the forest for the trees".
    – Barmar
    Jan 16 at 22:29
  • @Barmar I've always heard it this way. Perhaps it's a transatlantic thing. Jan 16 at 22:41
  • I suspect so. We would also say "woods" -- "wood" is what the trees are made of, not the collection of trees.
    – Barmar
    Jan 16 at 22:42
  • @Barmar I remember having difficulty understanding it when younger, because wood can be a part of a tree, and tree can be part of a wood. Jan 16 at 22:43
  • 1
    Tunnel vision definitions suggest narrow-mindedness, different from emphasis on detail.
    – Xanne
    Jan 17 at 6:01

Though often used with a looser meaning (just having plenty of choice, usually considered a good thing), the expression spoiled for choice can be used:

be spoilt/spoiled for choice:

to have so many good things to choose from that you cannot decide which one to choose

Often, we seem to be spoiled for choice and hampered, even paralysed, by our fear of the unknown.


FumbleFingers on ELL, adds the following quote from the New York Times pointing out the possibility that too much choice can lead to an inability to focus:

There is a famous jam study [which concluded that] in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.


The opposite of tunnel vision would be when you have finally made it through the tunnel. That's when the Skies have opened and you can see the whole horizon. Not just choices but the visualization of a great landscape.

  • But remember, the light at the end of the tunnel may be that of the oncoming train.
    – Xanne
    Feb 16 at 6:46

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