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Cedar R. Riener, Jessica K. Witt, Jeanine K. Stefanucci, Dennis R. Proffitt; Seeing beyond the target: An effect of environmental context on distance perception. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):195. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/5.8.195.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Previous research on egocentric distance perception has shown that contextual factors can influence our perception of distance. For instance, an obstacle placed between an observer and a target causes an underestimation in distance to the target (Sinai, Ooi, He, 1998; He et al., 2004). In these studies, however, the relevant cues are nearly always between the observer and the object. However, Shelton et al. (2002) recently reported that environmental context surrounding a target affected perceived midpoints of egocentric distances to that target. Perceived distance was overestimated when participants viewed targets in a hallway or a lobby, whereas perceived distance was accurate when viewing distances in an open field. In two experiments, we present further evidence indicating that information beyond the target can also affect egocentric distance perception to that target. Participants stood closer to one end of a long hallway and viewed targets while facing either the foreshortened end of the hallway or the extended end of the hallway. We measured perceived distance using a visual matching task (Exp. 1) and a blindwalking task (Exp. 2). The angular elevation of the targets in all conditions was the same. When the participants viewed a target near the closer end of the hallway, they overestimated the distance with both measures relative to targets viewed in the extended end of the hallway and vice versa. Our findings suggest that contextual effects on distance perception are not limited to obstacles between the observer and target, but also include the environment beyond the target.
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