How to Find Your Dominant Eye (Try These Tests!)
Most of us are very aware of our dominant hand – we can throw like an athlete with our right hand, but our left hand is absolutely abysmal (or vice versa!) But did you know that the same imbalance applies to our eyes, too?
One eye is often dominant over the other. While some people may not notice any difference between their eyes, for others, the dominant eye will be noticeably stronger. As you can imagine, this impacts many activities – from sports to art to driving.
Keep reading to learn more about what eye dominance is, how to find out which eye is dominant, and how it can affect daily life.
What is a dominant eye?
The term ‘dominant eye’ refers to the eye that your brain favors when looking at an object. This is different from your strongest eye, which would refer to the eye with the best vision. Most people have one dominant eye, although it's possible to be ‘ambidextrous’ and have two eyes of equal strength, which we’ll touch on later.
There are a few different theories about why dominant eyes exist – perhaps it helps the brain process visual information more efficiently, or maybe it provides better depth perception since the two eyes see objects from slightly different angles.
Studies have shown that about 67% of the population is right eye dominant, while the remaining 32% are left eye dominant. Only a very tiny percentage of the population actually experiences ambidextrous eyesight.
Types of eye dominance
Here’s where things get a little more interesting. Eye dominance can come in several different types, such as sensory dominance, sighting dominance, and motor dominance.
1. Sensory dominance
Occurs when your body favors one eye over the other in normal sight. This eye will likely have better vision than the other, and is what most people think of when they hear the phrase ‘dominant eye’.
2. Sighting dominance
Refers to when the body favors one eye over the other when fixating on a specific target. This eye is often the eye with a better prescription, but doesn’t have to be.
3. Motor dominance
Refers to the eye which is less likely to lose focus near the point of convergence. Whichever eye holds its focus the longest when you cross your eyes is the eye which holds motor dominance over the other.
Is eye dominance and handedness the same?
Most of us assume (understandably) that our eye dominance aligns with our hand dominance. While this is often the case, it is not always so; in fact, studies have shown that around 18% of the population are cross-dominant, meaning that their dominant hand is different from their dominant eye.
People with this trait can get on just fine – but it does complicate some activities that require finesse, as the body must receive signals from two different parts of the brain simultaneously in order to complete the task.
How to find out which eye is dominant
So, how do you figure out which eye is your dominant one? There are a few different ways that you can test for eye dominance.
The first way is to simply hold your hands out in front of you, making a small hole with your thumbs and first fingers. Take a look at an object in the distance, and then slowly bring your hands closer to your face while still looking at the object. The eye that remains focused on the object is most likely your dominant eye.
Another way to test for dominant eye is by using the “sighting method.” To do this, you will need a partner.
Have your partner hold their hand out in front of them with their thumb up. You should stand behind them and align your dominant eye with their thumb. Once your eye is in line, have your partner slowly move their hand away from you while still keeping their thumb up. The eye that remains focused on the thumb is your dominant eye.
No dominant eye - is it possible?
After you've done the dominance tests mentioned above, you may find that your results were inconclusive. Maybe you couldn't tell the difference between which eye was stronger, or maybe they genuinely seemed equal.
This might mean that you are one of only 18% of the population which has mixed dominance, meaning that both of your eyes are equally dominant.
Mixed dominance is more common in people who are creative, left-handed, or have some form of dyslexia. It's also more prevalent in those who play sports that require split-second decisions, like tennis or boxing.
There are a few different theories as to why mixed dominance might exist:
- It's an evolutionary throwback to a time when our ancestors needed to be able to see in all directions at once, in order to spot predators and prey; or
- It's simply a result of the brain being unable to choose which eye is dominant.
Whatever the reason, if you have mixed dominance, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're at a disadvantage. In fact, some studies have shown that people with mixed eye dominance tend to be better at 3D perception and depth estimation than those with a single dominant eye.
So if you're not sure which of your eyes is dominant, don't worry – you might just be a little bit ahead of the rest of us.
Can eye dominance be treated?
For most people, eye dominance doesn’t typically require treatment, but is just a curiosity in daily life.
However, there are some treatments sometimes prescribed to strengthen one eye over the other. One common method is to cover the non-dominant eye with an eye patch, which forces the brain to use the dominant eye more. This is a treatment commonly used for people who struggle with a lazy eye and can be very effective. However, it takes time and effort to relearn how to see correctly, so it’s not a great option, especially since having mixed dominance isn’t a flaw!
How can eye dominance affect activities?
We use our eyes for many activities including reading, writing, driving, and playing sports. Because our eyes work together as a team, we usually don't think about which eye is dominant. However, in some cases, it can be important to know which eye is the leader.
If you’re right-handed but left-eye dominant, for instance, you may find it uncomfortable to use a rifle or shotgun because you will be looking over the top of the gun barrel with your left eye. This can cause problems with depth perception and aim.
In other cases, such as when playing tennis or baseball, being right-eye dominant gives you an advantage because you can see the ball better as it comes toward you.
Even things like photography can be affected by eye dominance. If you are trying to take a picture of something far away, it is helpful to use your dominant eye because it will give you a better viewfinder image.
Eye dominance in vision correction
Knowing your dominant eye can have a lot of benefits as we have learned, but it also has an impact on your experience with vision correction. If you need glasses or contact lenses, your vision will be affected by which eye is dominant.
The most common type of vision correction is a refractive error, which occurs when the eye does not focus light properly on the retina. This results in blurred vision. If you have a refractive error, your dominant eye will have a slightly different prescription than your non-dominant eye.
There are two types of refractive error: myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness).
- MyopiaMyopia occurs when the eyeball is too long or the cornea is too curved, and light focuses in front of the retina instead of on it. This results in blurry vision of distant objects.
- HyperopiaHyperopia occurs when the eyeball is too short or the cornea is too flat, and light focuses behind the retina instead of on it. This results in blurry vision for close objects.
Whichever case you have, you will likely have a different prescription in both of your eyes if you have a dominant eye. This, if nothing else, at least helps you tell your contact lenses apart when opening a new pair – if one is stronger than the other and you know which of your eyes is dominant, you’ll likely know which contact goes where!