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John M. Franchak, Jeanine K. Stefanucci, Dennis R. Proffitt; Within striking distance: Task efficacy influences perceived size and distance. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):858. doi: 10.1167/6.6.858.
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Past research has shown that a target was perceived to be smaller when the observer's effectiveness of dropping a dart on the target was reduced (Wesp et al., 2004). Additionally, perceived distance is overestimated when the physical effort required to traverse a distance is increased (Proffitt et al., 2003). In three experiments, we found that observers who performed a difficult throwing task perceived a target as smaller and the distance to the target as farther than observers that completed the same task under easier circumstances. Participants attempted to slide beanbags into targets at different distances and of different sizes under normal or difficult conditions. In the difficult condition, participants slid the beanbag with their non-dominant hand while their eyes were closed, and the easy condition allowed participants to slide the beanbags with their dominant hands and their eyes open. Afterwards, participants were blindfolded, and then tried to walk to the target or turned in the opposite direction of the target and tried to walk the distance to the target. Walking distances were significantly greater for participants who acted on the target under difficult conditions than those who acted on the target under normal circumstances. A visual matching task was performed to assess participants' perception of the target's width. Participants in the difficult condition gave smaller estimates for the target's width. These results suggest that the ease with which an observer acts on a target influences the perceived size, location, and distance of the target.
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