Ontological issues in distance perception: Cue use under full cue conditions cannot be inferred from use under controlled conditions

Abstract

Phosphorescent square tiles (arranged to yield a single image size) were viewed in the dark by 56 monocular observers who utilized a chinrest. The targets were placed at one of three horizontal distances and at one of three eye heights, allowing us to study the relative effect of height in the visual field (HVF) and sagittal distance on observers’ verbal reports of the horizontal distance at which the object lay (near, middle, or far). In Experiment 1, we found that reports covaried primarily with HVF and, as predicted, they exhibited a weak paradoxical inverse relation with horizontal distance. In a second and third experiment, a visible surface was placed under the targets at the three eye heights in both dark and fully lighted conditions. In this situation, the inverse distance relation disappeared, and HVF no longer influenced the judgments of most observers. The results show that information projected from relevant support surfaces is essential for veridical information about object distance. These results raise fundamental issues for perceptual researchers regarding how to decide when a cue has been properly delineated, given the assumption that the relation between a cue and what it specifies is probabilistic.

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Correspondence to Geoffrey P. Bingham.

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Mon-Williams, M., Bingham, G.P. Ontological issues in distance perception: Cue use under full cue conditions cannot be inferred from use under controlled conditions. Perception & Psychophysics 70, 551–561 (2008). https://doi.org/10.3758/PP.70.3.551

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Keywords

  • Target Location
  • Horizontal Distance
  • Support Surface
  • Verbal Report
  • Texture Element