Perceptual Puzzle Strategy

Perceptual Puzzle strategy is a playful application of absolute and relative position that breaks the eye stress of extended screen viewing.

Perceptual puzzles are created by opposing two 11 x 17 sheets (size is important), each with a single-side having a printed scene. These scenes, when paired in a back-to-back manner, become a front and a back side. An 11 x 17 cardboard sheet is slid between the scenes to act as a stiffener as the puzzle solver must flip views between front and back scenes. The three sheets are then slid into a clear, protective art envelop (common 2 mil polypropylene envelop) so that they may be drawn over with any mode of erasable marker.

The front scene needs to have a central element to which an event occurs; event outcomes become the second, rear, scene. The event dislocates the central element’s features distributing them throughout the second scene. The puzzle is solved by using erasable markers to draw connecting lines on the rear scene between dislocated and original locations. The background of displaced features may also be affected by the event. To discover all of the features that have been displaced the puzzle must be flipped back and forth between front and rear scenes. Drawing back dislocated features can be done with a single line connecting the dislocated piece to its origin or by redrawing features to the scale of the original, recreating both original position and original background. 

An initial scene is created. The first puzzle scene below was created for a general audience, high school age and older. For my primary purpose of vision therapy I needed a high degree of color control and detail discrimination. I used an advanced version of Adobe Photoshop in creating this front side scene. The free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP, provides immediate access to a range of image manipulation techniques. Physically creating front and back scenes by drawing, cut and pasting and the like; then photocopying the created images works well also. The pocket watch with the watch sliding in or out of a vest pocket is the scene’s central element. The watch’s features will be affected by an event as illustrated in the second scene.

Background is sand, beach and cloudy sky; on top of the beach in the center is cement circle with colorful marbles spaced along the edge. The "front scene" is a old-fashioned pocket watch sliding into a pocket. The pocket watch splits the image of the cement circle.

Same sand, water and sky image with the cement circle split by a narrow band which now has a fire background and round circle where watch and pocket were. Pieces of the watch are randomly scattered on top of the sand, water and sky.

Above, the event displacing the watch face’s features is the vest igniting in the sun’s heat. Fire provides the explosive energy to re-distribute watch features across the full scene of the 11 x 17 surface.

Below, the watch will slip from its chain and fall onto the beach; the fall’s impact being the explosive energy that re-distributes watch features across the full scene of its back side image.

Puzzles should be viewed at a standard working distance, 16 in. or 40 cm between eyes and puzzle. The full scene should always be in view.

Flipping a puzzle from front to back requires large movements of the shoulders, arms and head. Working distance must be re-established with every peek of the front scene needed to continue work on a solution.

Every peek alerts peripheral visual acuities – 20/80 to 20/800 – to the detection of edges and large enough swathes of backgrounds which the eye associates with the central element features. These will help redirect central vision, our best visual acuity, back to task of identifying/reading what is being observed.

Coloring and resizing of puzzle elements can be as rich as the availability of erasable markers. Water based and dry erase markers offer the colors and tip sizes to make re-drawing a creative exercise in itself. Water based markers are a cost effective means of having the variety of color tones for the color blending needed to recreate backgrounds like beach sand and the watch’s face. Dry erase markers are most efficient for the line tracing between displaced and original positions of central element features.

As a teaching medium central scenes should contain sufficient content so that the drawing and re-drawing of links between front and rear scenes cumulatively adds to the puzzle solver’s general knowledge.

In the slipped chain event below the displaced features are re-distributed to invite casual learning: even numbers are grouped close to one another, odd numbers appear individually, equal increments are graphically highlighted (triangles mark the position of 15, 30, 45 and 60 on the clock face making intervals of 15 unique, 3 toed birds’ feet link the opposing intervals of 3 and 9 across the clock face), attention is most frequently drawn to the span between the positions of 10 and 2; the slipped chain scene acknowledges this by presenting the greatest cluster of data within this span including the bits of data that are seen as people on the beach.    

Image of the childrens’ version of the watch as central element 

Same sand, water and sky background scene. The foreground has a large simple image of an old-fashioned pocket watch.


Same sand, water and sky background with large pocket watch; however, pocket watch is missing the numbers and hands - these items are randomly placed on top of the background scene. Bird tracks have been added to the middle of the watch face.

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