Environmental context influences visually perceived distance

Joseph S. Lappin, Amy L. Shelton, John J. Rieser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


What properties determine visually perceived space? We discovered that the perceived relative distances of familiar objects in natural settings depended in unexpected ways on the surrounding visual field. Observers bisected egocentric distances in a lobby, in a hallway, and on an open lawn. Three key findings were the following: (1) Perceived midpoints were too far from the observer, which is the opposite of the common foreshortening effect (2) This antiforeshortening constant error depended on the environmental setting-greatest in the lobby and hall but nonsignificant on the lawn. (3) Context also affected distance discrimination; variability was greater in the hall than in the lobby or on the lawn. A second experiment replicated these findings, using a method of constant stimuli. Evidently, both the accuracy and the precision of perceived distance depend on subtle properties of the surrounding environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-581
Number of pages11
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • General Psychology


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