If you’re having a little more trouble reading road signs than you did last year, this study can give you some comfort. It turns out that your vision isn’t totally out of your control: it has a lot to do with your mindset.

In the first part of this study, students in MIT’s Reserve Officers Training Corps—none of whom were training to be pilots—entered a flight simulator. The first set of students “became” pilots: they wore army fatigues, looked at a realistic screen, and did flight maneuvers. The second group was told that the simulator was broken and role-played being pilots.

Pilots are commonly believed to have great vision, and that bias was all it took to improve real-life vision. Forty percent of participants in the first group had better vision inside the simulator than before the experiment, and no one in the second group did.

In the second part of the study, participants were told that exercise improves vision. Those who did jumping jacks—which most consider exercise—saw greater improvement in their vision than those who skipped, which most think of as child’s play, not exercise. Again, mindfulness improved “natural” ability. 

Finally, the experimenters reversed the standard eye chart, making the letters get bigger as opposed to smaller, and compared results. Participants who read a reversed eye chart performed much better than those who read a standard eye chart. So did participants who read an eye chart that started two thirds of the way down. If people weren’t set on their vision giving out as they moved down the chart, it didn’t.  

The upshot: If you believe you’re the star of the ophthalmology office, you just might edge closer to that elusive 20/20.