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Falling Door Tachistoscope


A black, wood and metal structure with a vertical compartment in the centre which is intended to hold an image, text, or object. The compartment has a large opening on the front side which is covered by two “falling doors” or panels when the device is set. One “falling door” is hinged at the bottom of the window, the other at the top. The “falling door” hinged at the bottom has a curved black metal strip attached to it that acts as a spring when the “falling door” is released. Both “falling doors” have a rotation handle on the right side of the device.

Accession Number: 2011.psy.45

Alternative Name:

Primary Materials: wood, metal


A paper label with the instrument’s name is taped to the outer falling door.

Dimensions (cm): Height = 19, Width = 19.5, Length = 32


A device that displays an image for a specific amount of time. For this device, the first “falling door” rotates up to cover the window (and the object in the compartment) and is locked in place by a lever on the left. The second “falling door” is rotated up and rests on the top of the first “falling door”. When the lever for the first “falling door” is released, that door falls outward, revealing the object in the compartment briefly. The second door immediately falls forward from the top to cover the object again, thus only briefly exposing the object to view.

Condition: Good.

Associated Instruments:


Date of Manufacture:


Dept. of Psychology, University of Toronto

Additional Information and References:

Historical Notes:

The first tachistoscope was originally described by German physiologist A.W. Volkmann in 1859. Tachistoscopes were used extensively in psychological research to present visual stimuli for controlled durations.