Checkers and depth perception
July 21, 2005 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I once heard that a person's ability to play checkers and chess is related to their depth perception. Any truth to this? Does depth perception have anything to do with one's ability to play board games?
posted by elquien to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the "depth" your talking about is the number of moves one can visulaize ahead of time. If I can logically predict the next 4 moves, I play 4 moves deep. Make sense?
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:59 AM on July 21, 2005

Or maybe you mean "spatial reasoning ability"? There's definitely an element of spatial reasoning to chess and similar games. I don't think it's really related to depth perception though. You need spatial reasoning to be able to manipulate three-dimensional objects in your mind, and depth perception to be able to see in three dimensions, but that's a pretty tenuous relationship...
posted by mr_roboto at 12:07 PM on July 21, 2005

Response by poster: I'll clarify a bit...when I was learning how to parallel park, my mom told me that whether I would be a good parallel parker is related to how well I played checkers/chess, presumably because of the spatial reasoning/depth perception link.

I've since learned that parallel parking is all about practice, and has little to do with depth perception. I guess I was just wondering if the two are indeed related...
posted by elquien at 12:11 PM on July 21, 2005

I guess I'd believe it. Depth perception is a kind of unconscious pattern recognition: you look at a whole bunch of clues and intuitively work out how far away something is. And playing chess well is a kind of unconscious pattern recognition: you look at a board layout and intuitively work out what's going on.

Still, that's a bit of a long shot. I'd believe it, but I'd sure want to see studies to back it up.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:16 PM on July 21, 2005

With board games in general, I would think that it depends on the game. Something like Sorry! is basically linear, while something like Risk would seem to reward an easy understanding of, say, how many steps it takes to get from Irkutsk to Northern Europe. I agree with roboto, though--that understanding seems more like spatial reasoning than it does depth perception.
posted by box at 12:23 PM on July 21, 2005

As a person with very poor depth perception, I can state that it has nothing to do with how much I suck at chess...8)

Seriously - because of the squares, it makes the game a lot easier for the whole depth perception thing; since they're differently colored and such, I can easily count squares and figure out moves that way. Once in a blue moon -- very rarely -- I might, for example, mis-estimate where a bishop can move to, but that's easy enough to see (partially because the bishop can only move on its own color), usually before, but at least when I go to actually move the piece.

But yeah -- I've had problems with lots of things, but board games aren't one of them.

If you're wondering what it's like not really having depth perception -- basically, it's like watching a movie, constantly. You can tell stuff is behind other stuff and you could guess that something is farther away than something else, but you can't really tell how far. It's typically easier with things that you're close-up to, just because you can look at it from more angles and whatnot. So, basically, think of playing a game of chess from a TV, with a camera on the board from a position of, say, about where your eyes would be if you were sitting at the table playing. And you can move the camera around a bit, too, but all your moves and such have to be pointing at the TV and figuring them out that way; you probably wouldn't have a problem figuring out your strategy anymore than you would with a real chessboard, right?

So, yeah. My lack of literal depth perception doesn't have anything to do with my chess -- it's all in my lack of figurative depth perception..8)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 12:39 PM on July 21, 2005

I bet US Blind Chess Champion Jeff Siebrandt could whip your butt real good, elquien.
posted by mischief at 1:23 PM on July 21, 2005

Your ability to play board games has nothing to do with depth perception. Depth perception is a result of binocular vision and is not related to spatial reasoning. In the matter or parallel parking, it is helpful to have both, but you don't have to have depth perception.

Want to know what it's like to have monocular vision? Shut one eye, point your index fingers with your palms facing you, then try to touch your fingertips togther.
posted by Specklet at 2:35 PM on July 21, 2005

Binocular vision stops working after a short distance. My spotty memory says 10 to 20 feet. After that the brain relies on other cues.
posted by rdr at 3:36 PM on July 21, 2005

I have been blind in one eye for about 20 years, and my "depth" perception is only noticeably affected when I try and hit a baseball. In the vast majority of of the rest of human existence I operate fully capably, driving, I can touch my fingers together in front of my face, and play chess adequately.

There are some who lose sight in one eye who absolutely panic at the thought of driving or other such activities... there was a good AskMe thread about learning how to fly with poor depth perception... I suspect it affect different people differently. the joys of being human
posted by edgeways at 12:59 AM on July 22, 2005

« Older PMP   |   Man the torpedoes! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.