A Psychological Approach to the Improvement of Myopia

Carolyn A. Zeiger (Ph.D., 1976)

Thesis directed by Associate Professor Peter G. Ossorio

The basic notion examined in this study is that personality factors are related to the development of myopia ("nearsightedness") and hyperopia ("farsightedness") and, consequently, that such problems can be improved by using psychological methods. The study was restricted to myopes.

The first phase of the study was devised to examine the relationship between personality and vision primarily in terms of the refractive status of the eye, and secondarily in terms of visual acuity. The descriptive model of ametropia and myopia developed for this purpose was tested for its ability to differentiate emmetropic ("normal" sighted) and myopic university students. In this model, myopia is taken to be a characteristic style or mode of being in the world by which the myope can be differentiated from the emmetrope. Personality indices used for this purpose included the Differential Personality Questionnaire, the "This I Believe" test, and the Noxious World Scale. Visual measures were acuity, refractive status, and dark focus (or resting point of accommodation) as determined by use of a laser optometer. Moderately myopic subjects were found to be the most highly differentiated from emmetropes, and could be described as seeing the world as noxious, irrational, and pressing on them. Advancing myopia was discussed in terms of providing a solution to this problem.

The second phase of the study was devised to test the notion that by changing this appraisal of the world, the myope can also change his vision. In a subject-as-own-control design, two treatment groups were compared over a three-week interval to test the effectiveness of a short-term program. The treatment for both groups included relaxation and a guided fantasy including indirect suggestion of improved acuity. In addition, one group went through a process designed to change their appraisal of the world and their experience of it. Both groups showed improvement in visual acuity within a treatment session, but only the latter group demonstrated an improvement from the pre-treatment assessment of acuity. Neither group retained any improvement until the post-treatment assessment. Neither group showed significant improvement in refractive status or dark focus measurements. Subjects from both groups who showed a significant improvement in acuity could be differentiated from those who did not on the basis of their scores on the personality indices. They showed the myopic world view to some extent, but also close social ties, openness and willingness to change. In addition, they showed a change toward a more positive view of the world during the treatment period. The implications of these findings for further research are discussed. [262 pp.]