We see everything upside-down (and then our brains flip the image right-side-up for us).

The lens of each eye casts an upside-down image onto the retina. Then your brain takes these two upside-down images at slightly different perspectives (one per eye) and creates a single right-side-up image.[1][2][3]

Or at least, that is almost right. The actual physiology of things is a bit more complex than that. What actually happens is your brain, with the help of feedback signals sent from the vestibular system in your ear, is processing a pattern of nerve impulses to create a useful image based on what you are looking at.

Although the information is coming in upside-down, one could argue that we don’t actually “see” the image upside-down (as one article put it, “here is no image in the brain to “rotate”—and even if there were, who would be the little person in the brain looking at the rotated image?”)

Given this, one might argue we receive the image upside-down, but by the time we are done processing the image and actually “see” the image, it is right-side-up (the brain has “reinterpreted” and “corrected” the information before an image was ever presented).

Still, in general, the half-fallacy “we see everything upside-down” is mostly correct.

With that all in mind, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that processing visual information takes a lot of our brains’ processing power.

To get a full explainer of how our eyes work, check out the video below.

The Visual System: How Your Eyes Work.

FACT: We also “see” (remember, there is an argument over whether the initial sensory information is really “an image”) the world flat, but the two offset images we see and the light and shadowing allow us to perceive depth. So yeah, in overly simple terms, we see two upside-down flat images that are slightly off from each other, and the brain turns that into something useful. Very cool brain… although perhaps even cooler than it is all a little more complex than that.


In simple terms, we see images upside down. In more correct terms, sensory information comes in “upside-down” and is then corrected before an image is ever created.

Arguments that the image we process is actually what we “see” aside, the images of the world cast on our retina are upside down and slightly off from each other, and then our brains process the image for us. This allows us to see depth and to see the world as it is, right-side-up.


  1. How do we see things upright if the image formed on the retina in our eye is an inverted one? Physlink.com.
  2. How do we see things upright if the image formed on the retina in our eye is an inverted one? ScientificAmerican.com.
  3. Depth Perception VeryWellHealth.com.

"We See Everything Upside-Down" is tagged with: Eyesight, Human Brain, Perception

Vote Fact or Myth: "We See Everything Upside-Down"

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Asher Wade on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

By stating, ”We See Everything Upside Down”, you have placed yourself in ‘check’ [Chess lingo] already, because the presupposition of the ωοrδ ”see” {etymologically in Latin} means ‘understanding’, which the Mind does not [yet] do.

Regarding the photons at the ”see-able” frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum, it is true that the reflected light bouncing off of objects, passes through the lens of our eyes and turns the rays of light so as to land upon the Optic disc ‘upside down’, but at this stage, we do not yet ‘understand; i.e. ”see” it.

It is then, in combination with our sense of touch/feeling as well as with the balance and orientation provided by the Vestibular Chamber in our Inner Ear, that the Mind experiences the cerebral neurons ‘firing’ an ”image” of said object to correspond to the touch/feeling and distance/extension of multiple combinations and permutations of previous experiences of this object to ”kNOw” this object, deal with it, handle it, and how to approach it without danger or harm.

Thomas DeMichele on

Yeah, so probably this should be we “see” (depending on your definition of “see;” but also see the arguments below) everything upside down. But like, kind of want people to actually click on the article and read without having to have the headline contain a bunch of qualifying arguments. Will take a look though. 😉

Nice arguments though.

Mike on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

The very first paragraph on the Scientific American article that you cited contradicts this supposed “fact”. By stating that this is fact, you have proved that you have not even read the articles that you cited. Please hold yourselves to higher standards as fact checkers.

“THE LENS IN YOUR EYE casts an upside-down image on your retina, but you see the world upright. Although people often believe that an upside-down image in the eyeball gets rotated somewhere in the brain to make it look right side up, that idea is a fallacy. No such rotation occurs, because there is no replica of the retinal image in the brain—only a pattern of firing of nerve impulses that encodes the image in such a way that it is perceived correctly; the brain does not rotate the nerve impulses”

Thomas DeMichele on

Great point. The idea of this site is to prove things fact or myth. We don’t actually always get it right, part of the deal is that commenters get to make opposing arguments using citations. Honestly you may have won the argument with my own citation. Let me look deeper into this. If I’m wrong, it’ll get changed. That is the beauty of the site.

Thomas DeMichele on

Upon further research the SA article is really just playing with semantics. And an argument over semantics isn’t enough for me to fully change the label. Instead I went with clarification.

In simple terms, we see images upside down. In more correct terms, sensory information comes in “upside down” and is then corrected before an image is ever created. In even more complex terms, a bunch of fancy stuff is happening that we would likely require us to throw out the terms we are using and replace them with scientific terms and physics jargon… which I think that moves outside of the scope of a common answer people are looking for here. If you disagree, do you mind presenting another citation to back up your argument, the article I posted initially (which I did read) didn’t convince me, I think maybe I could have explained better though which I now have.