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Mila Sugovic, Jessica Witt; Step Perception in Older Adults: The Effect of Support on Perceived Height. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):197. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.9.197.
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According to the action-specific perception account, a person’s action ability influences perception of the environment. Hills appear steeper to people wearing a heavy backpack, are fatigued, or are elderly. In the current experiment we examined the effect of support on perceived step height in older adults. Older adults were asked to estimate the height of a step, either with or without a railing present for support. As people age, they naturally lose their sense of balance, muscle mass, and mobility. As a result, the presence of a railing has an important functional purpose for an older individual. We found that older adults perceived steps to be lower when a railing was present versus when there was no support available. We also found that in younger adults, there was no difference in perceived step height between the two conditions. Furthermore, when older adults were asked to estimate the height of a block used for sitting, the presence of a railing in this case did not affect perceived height. Evidently, the presence of a railing only influences perception in older adults when the support can facilitate performance of an action and when it has some functional purpose. These results suggest that in older adults, perception is sensitive to support that can influence ability or ease with which one can perform an action.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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