I have noticed that in infrared film, people's eyes reflect that light within their eyes much like nocturnal animals (and many other animals for that matter) do with regular light. I know that this is in order to maximize their night vision capabilities by reflecting more light onto the retina.

My question is this: If a human had the nerves in our eyes to process infrared light, would someone with these 'special' eyes be able to see better than someone with 'regular' eyes? What would they see? What about in low-light conditions?

Example of what I am talking about:

...Infra-red illumination of the eye produces the 'bright pupil' effect

Source: http://www.museumsandtheweb.com/mw2003/papers/milekic/milekic.html

(most of the way down the page)

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Although interesting, this question is quite philosophical. It is like asking what if we had an extra pair of hands- would it help us to work better and faster. Infrared detection goggles are there and are used for seeing in dark. But as we have evolved we cannot differentiate objects just based on their heat signatures. So just infrared vision wont be good. $\endgroup$
    Apr 23, 2014 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ I was in the military for a bit. There was a guy I met who when the lights were turned off had eyes that glowed in the dark. It was like an animal at night. He showed this to me in confidence, we were alone, but didn’t say it was a secret or anything. He said he had a retinal or cornea transplant. I can’t remember what he said but I’m not sure if that was even the real story. I’m still not sure if a transplant would have that effect without the lining animals have called the tape firm lucid something..... $\endgroup$
    – Nomni
    Dec 27, 2019 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ There are animals that can sense into the infrared spectrum and this seems to help them detect prey. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Jan 6, 2020 at 10:27

2 Answers 2


No, retina doesn't have or has too few infrared receptors.

Practical example: most remote controls use IR LEDs (infra red light emitting diodes) to send commands to a receiver device. So take a remote control, keep pressing a button and look at its front. Do you see any flashing light? Now take a camera (phone camera, photo camera or video camcorder) and look with it at the remote while pressing a button. Now you see it producing white light. The camera sensor detects IR. That is how night vision in cameras work.

What you read in that article is about how light is reflected by the eye (the pupil). There is nothing to do with the retina which is on the 'back wall' of the eye ball.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This just states that humans can't see IR, which we already know. I think the question was more along "If we could choose to see IR, would that be better than seeing regular light?" $\endgroup$
    – jarlemag
    Apr 22, 2014 at 22:22

Infrared light is emitted by warm things, like our head. We'd be detecting it ambiantly all the time. That's why animals that can detect infrared are not warm-blooded.

  • $\begingroup$ My eyes are not warm. Air does not reflect infrared light (you don't see an infrared aura around warm objects in infrared captures). Therefore, I could implant infrared sensors into my eyes without seeing myself all the time. And even if, the self-ambiance could still be subtracted out. And cold-blooded animals are not cold all the time, especially not after a sun bath. $\endgroup$
    – phresnel
    Jul 21, 2014 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Infrared is a very wide spectrum. The long-wave infrared produced by animal body temperatures is a much different "color" than the near infrared which is part of normal sunlight - and which can be photographed with ordinary digital cameras by removing the IR blocking filter: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_photography $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 28, 2019 at 19:24

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