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Jeanine K. Stefanucci, Dennis R. Proffitt, Gerald Clore; Skating down a steeper slope: The effect of fear on geographical slant perception. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):194. doi: 10.1167/5.8.194.
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Previous research in our lab has shown that conscious awareness of the slant of a hill is overestimated, but visually guided actions directed at the hill are relatively accurate (Proffitt et al., 1995). In addition, steep hills were consciously estimated to be steeper from the top as opposed to the bottom, apparently because these hills were too steep to walk down and were viewed as dangerous. Furthermore, when an observer's physiological potential was manipulated by having him go on a long run or wear a heavy backpack, hills appeared even steeper with the conscious measures of slant, but the visually guided action was unaffected (Bhalla & Proffitt, 1999). In the present studies, we extend this research to show that viewing the hill in a fearful way also increases conscious estimates of slant, but not visually guided actions. Participants were situated at the top of a hill and stood either on a skateboard or on a wooden box of the same height. They gave three estimates of the slant of the hill: verbal report of the angle of the hill in degrees, a visually matched estimate of the slant, and a visually guided action (a haptic palmboard). After participants gave the three estimates of slant, their fear of descending the hill was assessed with a continuous rating scale. Experience on skateboards was also assessed, however almost no participants had substantial experience with skateboarding. Those participants that stood on the skateboard and reported feeling scared verbally judged the hill to be steeper and overestimated with the visual matching measure relative to those participants who stood on the box. However, the visually guided action measure was accurate across conditions. These results suggest that our explicit awareness of slant is influenced by the fear associated with a potentially dangerous action. As was found in our previous work, the visually guided action was unaffected by this experimental manipulation.
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