Article

Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 70, Issue 8, pp 1571-1580

First online:

The visual perception of lines on the road

  • Dennis M. ShafferAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Ohio State University Email author 
  • , Andrew B. MaynorAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Ohio State University
  • , Windy L. RoyAffiliated withArizona State University West

Abstract

The present work demonstrates that observers grossly underestimate the length of lines parallel to their line of sight. In Experiment 1, observers, working from memory, estimated the length of a dashed line on the road to be 0.61 m. This result is consistent with observers' using an average visual angle converted to the physical length of visible lines on the road to estimate their length. In Experiment 2, observers gave verbal and matching estimates that significantly underestimated the length of a 3.05-m line on the ground that was parallel to their line of sight. In Experiment 3, observers significantly underestimated the length of dashed lines on the road while in a moving car. The results of Experiments 1 and 3 are described well by Euclidean geometry, whereas the tangle model that utilizes an increasing function of the visual angle to describe perceived extent best describes the results of Experiment 2.