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William P. Seeley, Jes Waughtel; Motor simulation & the effects of energetic & emotional costs of depicted actions in picture perception. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):1041. doi: 10.1167/8.6.1041.
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Psychological studies (Proffitt, 2006) have demonstrated that what one sees is influenced by one's goals, physiological state, and emotions. These studies demonstrate that there is a positive correlation between the physical demands (energetic cost) and perceived valence (emotional cost) of a task and the appearance of slant and egocentric distance in the environment. The studies are compelling. However, one can question whether their results are due to changes in the way participants perceived the orientation and extent of their environment or are instead artifacts of the way they judged the difficulty of expected tasks in particular contexts. We asked participants to sketch the rough spatial layout of several paintings as accurately as possible. In this type of task participants continuously compare what they have drawn against what they perceive. Therefore, participants performance can be interpreted as a means to directly measure of the spatial metric of perception. We chose two paintings by Andrew Wyeth as target images: “Christina's World” and “Winter, 1946.” Participants were asked to draw the spatial arrangement of the key features of the scene depicted in the target painting twice: prior to being presented with biographical information about the subject of the painting condition; and then again after being told the biographical information that altered the perceived task demands or emotional valence of the events they depicted. We predicted that participants' drawings would differ in the two conditions indicating that: change in the energetic or emotional costs of the depicted action would cause them to perceive the depicted orientation of hills as steeper and distance between key landmarks as longer. Results from the energetic cost condition support this prediction. We will discuss our results and the suggestion that these types of effects reflect a role for motor simulation in perception (Witt, 2005).
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