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Matthew Costello, Christopher Davoli, Nicholas Panting, James Brockmole; Age-related differences in distance perception during remote tool-use. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):742. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.742.
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Perception can be surprisingly affected by bodily factors. For instance, broad-shouldered subjects report doorway widths to be narrower than do narrow-shouldered subjects (Stefannuci & Geuss, 2009), and weight encumbrance can increase slope estimates (Proffitt, 2006). Perceptual alterations are also evident when perceivers interact with objects. For instance, Davoli, Brockmole, and Witt (2012) found that participants judged distant objects to be closer if they could illuminate them with a laser pointer. Critically, the vast majority of studies of embodied perception have studied young adults, and thus the question of whether or how aging may alter embodied perception has been underexplored. Given the bodily and neurological changes that accompany aging, it is reasonable to suspect that perception should reflect corresponding age-related differences. Recent work suggests that older adults have a diminished neural flexibility for incorporating tools into their body schema compared to younger adults (Bloesch & Abrams, 2012). Thus, in the present study, we examined whether using a laser pointer to interact with distant objects (cf. Davoli et al., 2012) would affect distance perception differently in older compared to younger adults. Younger (18-30 years) and older (60-79 years) adult participants estimated the distance to a target at various locations along a 95-ft hallway while either illuminating the target with a laser-pointer or while pointing at the target with an inert metal baton. Replicating previous work, we found that younger adults judged targets to be closer when using a laser-pointer compared to pointing a metal baton. Critically, however, the distance judgments of older adults did not depend on whether they used a laser-pointer or pointed a baton. These findings indicate that perception of distance is less influenced by one’s capacity for remote interaction as the perceiver ages, and suggest that embodied effects revealed in perception are not invariable across the lifespan.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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