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Erika Siegel, Phillip Walker, Jeanine Stefanucci; So close and yet so far away: An effect of disgust on distance perception and graspability. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):1096. doi: 10.1167/9.8.1096.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Previous research has shown that fear and arousal can influence the perception of spatial layout (Stefanucci & Proffitt, in press; Stefanucci & Storbeck, in press). In a series of studies, we examined the relationship between disgust and perception, particularly the perception of tools. In Study 1, we tested whether placing a disgusting substance on a tool would alter the way in which people grasped the tool. Using Creem & Proffitt's (2001) paradigm, which showed that people picked up tools by their handle even when the handle was oriented away from them, we showed that people will not grasp the handle when the tool has a disgusting substance on the handle. In Study 2, we assessed whether disgust would influence grasping behavior and the perceived distance to the object before the grasp. Participants were placed into a disgust or neutral condition. The tools in the disgust condition were entirely covered in a disgusting substance. In both conditions, participants estimated the distance to and picked up tools at three different distances: 20, 30, and 40 cm. Participants in the disgust condition estimated the tools to be significantly farther away than participants in the neutral condition and that difference was larger at the closer distances. The differences in perceived distance found in this study suggest that disgusting tools may activate a different motor plan than clean tools (as evidenced by Study 1 and 2) and, as a result, participants overestimate the distance to the tool (Study 2). The data suggest that emotion, particularly disgust, influences grasping behavior and the perceived distance to graspable objects in the environment. Follow-up studies are examining estimates of reachability to tools that are disgusting as well as the perceived distance to tools for which the location of the disgusting substance is varied.
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