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Nathan Tenhundfeld, Jessica Witt; Perceptual Distortions of Distances on a Hill Depend on Interoceptive Awareness. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):47. doi: 10.1167/15.12.47.
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Research has shown that distances on a hill appear further than they do on the flat ground (Stefanucci, et al., 2005). It is theorized that this perceptual distortion is a function of energetic demands associated with traversing the hill, compared to the flat ground. A big question concerns the nature of information about action and how it is then integrated with visual information. One theory is that information about action is detected on-line from proprioceptive and interoceptive receptors (Witt & Riley, 2014). If perceivers depend on interoception to provide cues about our internal states as they relate to the environment, those who show greater sensitivity to interoceptive information might also show a greater effect of the hill on perceived distances. Here, we tested that idea by assessing individuals’ ability to detect their own heart rate, which is a standard measure of interceptive awareness. Participants verbally estimated the distance to cones placed on the hill and on the flat ground, followed by a heart rate estimation task. The effect of hill versus flat on perceived distance was significantly modulated by heart rate detection ability, F(1,49) = 4.45, p = .04. The best heart-rate estimators (top two-thirds) revealed a significant effect of terrain (hill vs flat) on perceived distance, F(1, 34) = 17.52, p < .001. The bottom third, however, did not, F(1, 15) = 0.52, p > .48. These results indicate that for individuals with greater interoceptive awareness, perceived distance is affected by the hill, while for those with worse interoceptive awareness, perceived distance is not. Stated another way, those who are more in tune with their internal states appear be more affected by anticipated energetic expenditures. This suggests that the perceptual distortions related to energetics are likely due to the ability to sense internal responses to the anticipation of action.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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