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The Influence of Ground Contact and Visible Horizon on Perception of Distance and Size under Severely Degraded Vision

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For more content, see Multisensory Research and Spatial Vision.

For low vision navigation, misperceiving the locations of hazards can have serious consequences. Potential sources of such misperceptions are hazards that are not visually associated with the ground plane, thus, depriving the viewer of important perspective cues for egocentric distance. In Experiment 1, we assessed absolute distance and size judgments to targets on stands under degraded vision conditions. Normally sighted observers wore blur goggles that severely reduced acuity and contrast, and viewed targets placed on either detectable or undetectable stands. Participants in the detectable stand condition demonstrated accurate distance judgments, whereas participants in the undetectable stand condition overestimated target distances. Similarly, the perceived size of targets in the undetectable stand condition was judged to be significantly larger than in the detectable stand condition, suggesting a perceptual coupling of size and distance in conditions of degraded vision. In Experiment 2, we investigated size and implied distance perception of targets elevated above a visible horizon for individuals in an induced state of degraded vision. When participants’ size judgments are inserted into the size–distance invariance hypothesis (SDIH) formula, distance to above-horizon objects increased compared to those below the horizon. Together, our results emphasize the importance of salient visible ground-contact information for accurate distance perception. The absence of this ground-contact information could be the source of perceptual errors leading to potential hazards for low vision individuals with severely degraded acuity and contrast sensitivity.

Affiliations: 1: University of Utah, 380 S. 1530 E., Room 502, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA


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