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Zachary Ontiveros, Neil Mejia, Peter Liebenson, Andreas Lagos, Frank Durgin; Cognitive feedback may cause “Tool Effects”: An attempted replication of Witt (in press). Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):971. doi: 10.1167/11.11.971.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
We sought to follow up reports that perceived distance is reduced when wielding a tool that extends reach. Several studies have contrasted distance estimation between groups that reached to a target using only their hand and reached using a tool. The present study aimed to replicate one such finding, which used an “implicit” measure of distance (triangle aspect ratio). Because others have shown that people overestimate how far they can reach (and underestimate distances along a table), we sought to test whether reaching with one's hand provided distance feedback for future trials that produced the reported differences between conditions. Methods. Our experimental design painstakingly replicated the main conditions of Witt (in press), Experiment 1, but added a third condition in which no reaching was performed. A questionnaire after the main experiment assessed participant strategies and observations. Estimates of reach along the table and measures of actual reach were collected after the questionnaire. Results. We found no effect of the tool on estimates of perceived aspect ratio. However, we replicated the more general findings that (1) aspect ratios were underestimated and (2) reachable distance was overestimated. The questionnaire data showed that about two-thirds of participants in the hand condition noticed that they were underestimating distances along the table, and about half of these explicitly mentioned getting feedback from reaching. On average, people underestimated the aspect ratios by about 10%, while overestimating how far along the table they could reach by about 15%. Evidently reaching with one's hand provides feedback that things are farther away than they appear. This may have caused people in prior experiments who reached with their hand after each trial to elevate their estimates on subsequent trials. Rather than an effect of intending to reach with a tool, differences may have reflected an effect on the hand condition.
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