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Jessica K. Witt, Dennis R. Proffitt, William Epstein; Seeing into the Future: An interaction between perception and action. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):323. doi: 10.1167/5.8.323.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Starting with J. J. Gibson (1979), researchers have been interested in the relationship between the perceiver and perception. In our experiments, we have specifically looked at how the perceiver's ability to reach to targets influences perceived distance to the targets. Participants estimated the distance to targets that were placed beyond their reach. However, during half of the trials, participants reached with a tool, which allowed them to reach to all of the targets. This allowed us to manipulate reachability while keeping distance constant. There was a main effect of distance, which demonstrates the well-known fact that optical cues provide information about the target's location. Moreover, there was also a main effect of reachability. Targets within reach as a result of holding the tool looked closer than when the participants did not wield the tool and the targets were beyond reach. This result demonstrates that the perceiver's ability to act on the environment influences the perception of the environment. Several follow-up experiments suggest that the mechanism responsible for these effects involves a motor simulation of reaching. Participants were able to anticipate their reaching abilities even when they waited to pick up the tool and when they simply imagined holding the tool. However, reachability did not affect perceived distance when participants did not run a motor simulation nor when participants could not run a motor simulation. Motor simulations are important for planning actions that will allow perceivers to achieve their goals, so we think that these effects demonstrate that conscious perception is future-oriented. More research is needed to truly understand the mechanisms underlying these effects; however, these results provide strong evidence for an important interaction between the perceiver and his or her perception of the environment.
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