Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 226, Issue 3, pp 383–391 | Cite as

An older view on distance perception: older adults perceive walkable extents as farther

  • Mila Sugovic
  • Jessica K. Witt
Research Article


According to the action-specific perception account, spatial perception is affected by the specific energetic costs required to perform an action. In the current experiments, we examined the effect of age on distance perception. Older and younger adults were asked to verbally estimate distance to a target placed in a hallway. Results showed that older adults estimated distances to be farther compared to younger adults. Additionally, older and younger adults estimated distances on a surface that was easier to walk on (carpet) and on a surface that was more difficult to walk on (carpet covered by a plastic tarp). For older adults, distances looked farther on the plastic surface than on the carpet. These differences across surfaces were not found for able, younger adults. These results suggest that the type of floor surface available influences perception of distances. Furthermore, the results suggest that perception is still sensitive to environmental differences that affect ability even as a perceiver ages.


Action-specific perception Distance perception Effort Older adults Perception–action relationships 



The work was supported by NSF grant BCS-0957051 to JKW. The authors would like to thank Alexander Francis and Robert Proctor for their helpful discussions, Taitlin Resetic for her help with data collection, and University Place for their assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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