Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
Why can’t we see in more dimensions than 3D? © Getty Images

Why can’t we see in more dimensions than 3D?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Our viewing experience of films is aided by the chunky 3D glasses provided by the cinema, but why is our visual system limited to just three dimensions?

Asked by: Leah Smith, Hereford

Advertisement

Our brains have been shaped by generations of evolution. The fact that we are unable to think in more than three dimensions suggests that visualising four or more dimensions simply provided no survival or reproductive value to our ancestors – this isn’t really surprising since our daily lives are played out in a three-dimensional physical space.

It is likely for similar reasons that we also find it so difficult to imagine truly infinite space or eternity and other metaphysical concepts. While we can appreciate the meaning of these terms, we struggle to visualise them because our brains have adapted to process the limited space and time that we occupy.


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.

Authors

Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content