Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Hitting Ability and Perception of Object's Size: Evidence for a Negative Relation

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Hitting Ability and Perception of Object's Size: Evidence for a Negative Relation

Article excerpt

Published online: 10 May 2014

# The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract We examined the relation between motor performance and perception of object's size in near space. The general task was to repeatedly hit a target by means of pointing movements and to estimate target's size. In contrast to the results of previous studies, Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 revealed a negative relation between action ability and perceived target size: Participants who hit the target relatively often and whose motor variability was relatively low judged targets to be smaller than did participants whose motor performance was relatively poor. In Experiment 3, the size judgments were made in the presence of the target before, as well as after, pointing movements. The target was judged as smaller when it was easy, rather than difficult, to hit before as well as after the movement. Altogether, these results indicate that under certain conditions, an increased action ability reduces the apparent size of the actions' target objects.

Keywords Embodied perception . Goal-directed movements . Perception and Action


It has been reported several times that success or failure of an action correlates with size estimates of objects to which that action is related. For example, Witt and colleagues (Witt, Linkenauger, Bakdash, & Proffitt, 2008)observedthatafter a golf game, the golfers who played well estimated the hole size to be bigger than did golfers whose performance was worse on that day. Hitting performance in softball correlated with estimations of the ball's size (Witt & Proffitt, 2005). Again, players who hit well judged the ball to be bigger. The judgments of the size of goal posts in American football correlated with the kicking performance (Witt & Dorsch, 2009): More successful kickers judged the goal posts to be farther apart.

These and similar results were suggested to indicate ac- tion's effects on perception (e.g., Cañal-Bruland & van der Kamp, 2009; Wesp, Cichello, Gracia, & Davis, 2004; Witt, 2011). Specifically, people might see objects differently de- pending on their current action ability. The general idea be- hind this claim is that initial optical information is scaled by a kind of "perceptual ruler"-that is, by a motor variable that is relevant for an intended action (Linkenauger, Witt, Stefanucci, Bakdash, & Proffitt, 2009;Proffitt&Linkenauger,2013). One indication of action ability is the "variance of performance" (or the variance of probability distribution; Proffitt & Linkenauger, 2013). According to this approach, the per- ceived size of a target should increase with an increase in action ability (indicated by a decrease of action variability).

In spite of considerable evidence from other paradigms for this action-specific account of perception, the causal link between action ability and perception in studies on the relation between action success and the perception of object'ssizeis not well supported. One possibly critical aspect of the previous results is that an effect of action on perception was typically observed in judgments measured when ac- tion outcome is known (but see Lee, Lee, Carello, & Turvey, 2012, for an exception). Accordingly, outcome evaluation processes might be related to the observed percep- tual plasticity phenomena, rather than to the current action ability per se (cf. Cooper, Sterling, Bacon, & Bridgeman, 2012; Wesp et al., 2004).

Moreover, assuming a close link between action ability and size perception, one might expect that the apparent size of an object varies with current ability already before action execu- tion (cf., e.g., Kirsch & Kunde, 2013b; Witt & Proffitt, 2008). Two studies that looked at this issue, however, did not report systematic effects. Cooper and colleagues (2012)askedpar- ticipants to throw a marble into a hole of varying size and measured verbal and haptic estimation of the hole size before and after movement. …

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