Intro arrow 1. Masking Alpha Channel arrow 1.5 Alignment
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0. Left & Right Brain
1. Masking Alpha Channel
2. Rods & Cones
3. LGN: Magno & Parvo
4. SC: Superior Colliculus
5. Primary Visual Cortex
6. Dorsal - Ventral Stream
7. Eye Movements
8. Oculomotor System
9. Balance System
10. Ectopia & Microgyrus
11. Genetic Etiology
12. Reading
13. Animals
14. Conclusion / Solution
15. Different Theories
16. Peace of Mind
1.5 Different alignment gives a different view

 Alignment is the adjustment of an object in relation with other objects, or a static orientation of some object or set of objects in relation to others. When we look, we can notice that our view is aligned to the facial masking regions that surrounds our eyes. For Asians this alignment is horizontal as the haven't got an signature intersection as occidentals, who have a vertical type of alignment, or depending of the rotation of one's head more a "pyramid" type of alignment. (We  also look for alignment of images we have in our mind.)


As an example we can use the famous Japanese painting "The great wave at Kanagawa" by Katsushika Hokusai, and compare how each type of alignment creates visual dynamics or not. The asian up and way of seeing is caused by their upper masking area vs. the central masking of westerners who have a more left / right stucture.

A. Horizontal Alignment

B. Vertical Alignment


The eyes of this asian girl are closely surrounded

by masking area's in the horizontal way.


The main masking elements for this boy is his nose
and the vertical intersection between his eyes.


Horizontally she has more freedom & guidance,
it makes it easier for her to look along horizontal elements. By looking up she will encounters quickly horizontal masking, this makes it easier for her to take short horizontal reference steps or look along horizontal lines, touch.

Verticaly he has more freedom & guidance,
it makes it easier for him to look along vertical elements. By looking left/right he encounters quickly horizontal masking, this makes it easier for him to take short vertical reference steps from or inbetween horizontal reference elements, grip and touch.


The 2 alignment directions are layered over Katsushika painting.
The girl will start at the upper left corner where the text is, and find her first horizontal reference element, and move on to the tip of the boat. The second horizontal reference element in the back will narrow and frame her sight, and close it off from the upper area of the painting. She will horizontally move along the boat and follow the direction on to the upper right. Where the tip of the other boat starts. She will align again downward with the black horizontal area in the back, speeding up the motion and she'll get "swung" to the left following the curve. At the left tip of the boat she will look up at the drop, she'll look more up from that tiny detail and at that moment "The big wave" appears who will crush upon the boat. Alignment here is specially used to; hide the wave until the last moment of surprise/impact, and to enforce the pendulum movement of the viewer and the motion of the waves.

The boy will be looking around for vertical alignment elements, but as there aren't any that make up a rythm and provide him with directionts, thus he will not get the depth, the dynamics and the drama of the story.


Or he can turn his head upwards and have a more 'Pyramid Alignment'.

C. Pyramid Alignment  

A 3th way of alignment is based on when a persons uses the tip of his/her nose as an alignment/aiming element. Having the ability to focus freely, detailed and in depth. Every person is build differently so there is a lot of shifting between horizontal, vertical and pyramid alignment, depending on; position, movement, environment and focus element. 


Regarding the the great wave painting, by looking 'detailed' you can follow the directional lines but miss the powerful dynamics based on horizontal alignment.



When we look around, focus and align, we need a lot of flexibility, this is done by moving our whole body, so we also use subtle lower-back rotation, bending of the upper-body moving our hips etc. Overall body movement is often overlooked in eye-tracking studies.



 The eye takes approximately 20-30 minutes to fully adapt from bright sunlight to complete darkness and become ten thousand to one million times more sensitive than at full daylight. In this process, the eye's perception of color changes as well. However, it takes approximately five minutes for the eye to adapt to bright sunlight from darkness. This is due to cones obtaining more sensitivity when first entering the dark for the first five minutes but the rods take over after five or more minutes.

 The shadow fall created by the masking elements creates a transition area/line on the Retina where our view crosses over from non covered/less sensitive to covered sensitive areas. This way we have a cross-over area/line that can be seen as a linear and/or volumetric marker. Giving us alignment. The eyelids and eyelashes provide a nearby the eye area for creating such a transition area but the Epicanthic fold creates a more global area, westerners have a similar global alignment area but in a vertical way thanks to their more prominent nasal intersection.


 Masking by the pupil, eyelashes and facial elements cause diffraction of light and create 'blurred' areas, providing the peripherial area of our eyes with an area where the viewer has less visual grip on linear elements and movement. This transition between sharp and blurred can be seen as a reference / alignment area.


A small reflection of alignment in our Visual pathway: Light falls into the Retina , onto the LGN (relay system), onto the Primary visual Cortex (image processing) and this part of the brain has a tendency to prefer horizontal and/or vertical lines because of this types of lines provides the shortest connectivity formations. Vertical or Horizontal shadow areas in-line with the directional lines we see provide us with an alignment tool.


For more information about the physical evolution of alignment in our brain visit topic: 5.2 Visual Grid and the Origin of Ocular Dominance Patterns in V1

 A stripe patterned visual processing part of our brain (V1), supports us with an alignment/directional system so we can stay in balance and have grip on our environment. Thanks to this wiring system, we have balance and a visual grid that let's our sight hold-on and rest onto vertical and horizontal elements in our environment, providing us with a stability.


 Everywhere around us, we find this 'grid-like' natural structure of vertical and horizontal elements formed by; plants and trees growing straight towards the sun, and the force of gravity that pulls everything to the ground (spirit level). (more)

 Conclusion: Our reference element and way of focusing influences how we look at information, the way we move, relate to, behave and interact along with all of our other senses. When we want to tell a visual story, the nature of ones masking regions (1.4 Asians have Horizontal Masking & Aligning) define for a big part someone's interpretation of the image, subliminally we align our own facial elements with what we see. An other example; in the works of old master Utagawa Hiroshige you will often see at the top and bottom of his woks, significant horizontal banners (dark blue), they work as a hold-on providing grip and a pattern. 

Test: Lay your hand above your eyes to increase horizontal masking, or cut a "peep-line" in a sheet of paper to look through. And look at the artwork of modern japanese artist Sayaka (below), see if you have a different feeling and compositional understanding of the drawing. Note: You can have strong alignment behavior, so give yourself some time to adapt to a different visual situation. Like when your eyes have to adapt coming from a lighted environment and going to a dark enviroment, the parts of your retina that are being blocked have to become more sensitive to sense the masking so give yourself some time to adjust to the different masking situation.



Reading Directions and Alignment


The starting point is the number O/I this is for every person the same, if you read left to right or up and down.

The next image contains numbers where the starting/reference point is oneself; Westerns or Asians.

Horizontal- or vertical alignment causes you take steps in an up and down direction, or from left to right, depending the easiest way to stay aligned. Creating a different reading direction.


These horizontal or vertical or any other shape of alignment types could be seen as a starting or reference base for how we relate and see. And connecting to Professor Dmitri B. Chklovskii and Alexei A. Koulakov theory of the origin of these Maps in the brain, as they have reproduced orientation preference maps by minimizing the length of neuronal connections, or wiring. (Source pdf: Orientation preference maps in mammalian visual cortex: A wire length minimization approach)

Note: The up and down way of alignment caused horizontal masking elements, creating shadow and blurr, makes japanese artist use less shadow as their perception of depth is different. (For more images of alignment creating dynamics visit topic: 1.5.1 Art & Dynamics).


Horizontal Shadow
 Vertical Shadow 
 Horizontal Blurr   Vertical Blurr

Horizontal alignment makes the relation
between the tree and it's shadow less relevant.

Therefore you don't see much
the use of shadow in Oriental art. 

Vertical alignment; when focusing on
the shadow, the tree stays in the picture.

Counting test


Focus on the blue spot for 25 seconds and when the circles appear, count some by following the orange spot that appears. The cicles stay 10 sec. and then it loops. Please give yourself some time to adjust between each test. (You can open each test in a separate window by clicking on them)


1. Vertical





2. Horizontal





3. Pyramid





4. Wave


You 'll notice that 'masking' creates a feeling, to count horizontal, vertical or in case of 'pyramid' more freely. The 'Wave' let's you relate to typical 'African-wax-designs'. You will also notice that it's harder to switch from focusing from one image to the other as the reflection stay's for sometime on the retina. Now remember when you have day in day out the same masking you develop a different reference. Note: when counting, you can go from one circle to the next, and the last counted circle disappears in the darker area, making it easier to take steps, using 'alignment' to stay precise.



 We use every part of our body to aim, the most simple example is using our finger and pinpoint at something. By doing so we also make a gesture. The meaning of "gesture" in the dictionary is: "a movement of part of the body, especially a head or the hand, to express an idea or a meaning". There is a relation between she/he who does the movement and you, we can align to what that person is expressing when we reflect that movement on our own system. There are many different elements of expression that we can relate to and that can capture our senses; music, pictures, color, a scent, etc.

 When you look in a mirror you recognize that person because the alignment parts of your body; nose, chin, cheekbones, eyelids, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, etc., have the same form, relative position and move in just the same way as you. It gives you a hooked feeling, like a heat-seeking-missile is locked on a target, when you pull your arm up your mirror image does the same.

This is why different ethnic groups have their own style of music and visual art. When we look at West Africans: their face has 3 main visual aiming elements; 2 high cheekbones and pronounced lips, giving them a triangle, wave-type alignment, in which they can recognize themselves and find balance.


Exercise: Lay one hand on each cheekbone in a way that you can see your fingertips who give extra alignment, make your lips slightly bigger and look at the patterns below, see and feel if you now find more alignment and recognition in these patterns.

For more patterns check out the website of Vlisco, one of the original Wax-pattern designers/producers:

Text and Alignment in Different Cultures

  • The Alphabet has a vertical-lines-pattern: I I I I I I I I. Note: when the letters are turned we start to move our head, to keep our visual grid aligned, until they are vertical.
  • Chinese script is conform to their tendency for horizontal alignment, written in a vertical direction. An interesting article in National Geographic: Chinese, Americans Truly See Differently, Study Says 
  •  Arab script the spacing between the vertical alignment elements is wider —.—I—.—I—. The baseline is often much bolder to keep create a strong alignment. 


^^ top ^^ 

Small test: Count the F's in the following statement:


+++++++ ++++++++++++++++++++




Managed it ? Scroll down only after you have counted
them, okay? Do you think there are three?

How many ? 3?




Wrong, there are 6 !!--no joke.
Read it again.
The reasoning behind is further down.

The brain cannot process "OF".
Incredible or what ? Go back and look again!!


The reason according to the 'alignment' theory is that we align horizontally or vertically when we read with the 'F' in the Middle of the word. This makes it's characteristics disappear (see image below).


An other test is this classic joke:


Look at the image below and see if you can decipher anything.




If not, try pulling the corner of your eyes as if you were Chinese (or just narrow your eyes) and view the image again. Are you able to read it now? (scroll down)


















When you apply alignment lines it becomes much more clear how they support our vision.


Comment 1: I doubt that the above images show anything other than how defocussing your eyes (by distorting them in the way you described) can enable you to see a "hidden" image. I found that simply by placing a clear, but isotropically rough piece of plastic in front of my eyes, I could see the hidden image.


A1: By using the plastic, you can read the text, but lose all sharpness of the image. And this is actually what alignment is about. Alignment is the area where sharp-view goes over to blurred and/or shadowed.

See image below for global blur vs transition alignment area:




A2: You can do an alignment test :


Step 1: Take a sheet of paper and just hold it above the text close to your screen to 'manually' create alignment, as the image above with the black lines aligning on top of the text, I think we can agree this works.


Step 2: Take that same sheet and instead of holding the paper against the screen, hold it against your face so when you look slightly above you see the edge of that paper as a blurred line. Now look again at the "TEXT" and try to find the same alignment by turning your head. Look at the image below, that I took with my camera and a sheet of paper partly in-front of the lens creating alignment.

When you do this, and you relax your sight, you will notice that when looking at the text you can find the 'right' amount of masking and the rest of the text is clear (sharp).



Note: if you lay your hand over one eye and look around you'll 'see' all the masking area's around your eye much easier.

Comment 2: "I hope you appreciate that I'm saying that squinting doesn't reproduce the effect of having "Asian eyes". What squinting actually does is change the shape of your eye lenses. Having Asian eyes only affects the region outside of the pupil. This reduces vulnerability to sand/dust, etc, but doesn't affect the optical performance, unless the pupil is so highly dilated that the skin occludes part of it."

A1. 'Squinting' narrows our eyes, like Asians have narrow eyes, reducing our peripheral view and giving ourselves more relevant alignment. When we read something tiny or look very precise we squint automatically.

A2. Our lenses stay the same, the amount of light falling in and diffraction is reduced by a smaller pupil giving us a sharper image and a sharper feel for alignment. This is why the shape of pupils of animals differ. (See this topic on my site: Animals Overview)

Our eyes need a 'hold on" to read along, like the lines on the road, when you 're driving you don't look at them but feel them.

A3. The protection against sand etc. isn't in my optics a matter of importance, it has got all to do with masking of light. Look at Eskimo's they live in places where there is much light reflected by snow so their eyes are more narrow thus less light fall's into them. Eyelashes protect against dust.

A4. Alignment does affect the optical performance, the 'Epicanthic fold' is much more nearby than you think, see images below and thus play's a much bigger part. The peripheral area of our eyes doesn't see color, but it does see motion so place your finger somewhere where you think you can't see and move it you will notice it. The eyes cover a lot of ground than you think.

Alignment is like Silicon a transition area between sharp and not sharp-sight.

Comment 3: Only in very low light levels would the pupil be large enough to be occluded, except at the edge of the visual field, which anyhow isn't used for reading, although I find that my eye-lashes become visible (albeit out of focus), which cuts down the light level a bit.

A1: If you look cross-eyed you can see the tip of your nose, so your own sight is used to sense where our nose is, when you look around your visual system senses it and it gives you an alignment tool. Look at the table below and see the reference points, when you look forward the reference points are B1. (see topic: 2.2 Rods, Cones, Facial Masking & Alignment)



A2: Eye-lashes give indeed blur alignment to read and our other alignment parts help us to align with the top of a page or sides etc. Hold a paper up at different places and your head will position itself always in the same relevant position to the paper to stay aligned.

So when you look around you do two things; look for a target (focus) and sense for an alignment reference element. By doing this Asians and westerners are different for instance when you count stripes, the natural reference for each groups differs, as does the reading direction.

I  I  I  I  I  I  I  I


Western men wear a tie, a vertical alignment element, classic asian clothes often have horizontal alignment stripes to keeps one's view centered (see image below).



Comment 4: The visual information that arrives to the retina is a function of the optical pathway through the pupil. A double eyelid does not obscure the iris any differently than the western eye, so the filtering of the visual information before arrival at the retina is identical in both cases, I believe.


A: This is all true but our eyes move around or stay focusing gazing etc. and to keep our body in balance we need alignment. For instance when you see oblique lines you 'll turn your head to stay aligned / / / / / / / / / / / / . So when we look at the masking elements of the different groups we can see to which type of visual elements one group tend to relate and which not …


Masking works like a compas: when we see we might stay focused by our eyes, who stand still but the masking around moves by turning your head, upper-body, neck, hips, etc. so this gives 'us' much more information, and it's not measured when we do simple eye-tracking.

Comment 5: Would you really say you're that far along with it?

A: It is not so much my theory it is a physiological principle, that I experienced by changing the masking of my eyes. This gave me the opportunity to understand some of the basic mechanics of our sight, and how it's applicable for nearly every organism. Masking helps us to align and stay in balance, to move and see in a particular way, to observe, track pray…



It's like the moon when it is closely to the ground it looks bigger, because the relation between a steady object (earth/us) and the a free object is shorter and thus more stable. Also the framing is different when the elements are closer in 'play'. The earth and the buildings are masking elements who give us alignment to rest our sight upon.

[ Next : 1.5.1 Questions & Answers 1.5.2 Art and Dynamics ]


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