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Jessica Witt, Sally Linkenauger, Jon Bakdash, Dennis Proffitt; Golf performance makes the hole look as big as a bucket or as small as a dime. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):291. doi: 10.1167/7.9.291.
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Golfers often comment on how their perception of the hole varies with performance. On good days, the hole can look as big as a bucket or a basketball hoop. On bad days, the hole can look as small as a dime or an aspirin. The optical information received by the eye is the same regardless of how well the golfer is playing, so does a golfer really see the hole differently? We measured apparent hole size for golfers after they played a round of golf, and found a negative correlation between course score and judged hole size: Golfers with a better score judged the hole to be bigger. This result expands on earlier research with softball players where we showed that batters who were hitting better recalled the softball to be bigger (Witt & Proffitt, 2005). In addition, we showed that apparent hole size is related to golf performance that day (as assessed by course score) but not to how good a player is (as assessed by handicap). In other words, our results imply that a highly skilled player such as Tiger Woods does not always see the hole as bigger just because he is a better player, but rather, any person can see the hole as being bigger on days that he or she is playing well. Finally, apparent size is not related to subjective measures of performance. Players who think they are playing better do not necessarily see the hole as being bigger. We ran two follow-up experiments in the laboratory to show that performance affects judgment of hole size when the hole is out of sight and within sight during the judgment. Our results demonstrate that people's perception of the environment is influenced by their current abilities to act effectively in the environment.
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