Change in perceived spatial directions due to context

Nicole Schoumans, Jan J. Koenderink, A. M L Kappers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We examined the influence of context on exocentric pointing. In a virtual three-dimensional set-up, we asked our subjects to aim a pointer toward a target in two conditions: The target and the pointer were visible alone, or they were visible with planes through each of them. The planes consisted of a regular grid of horizontal and vertical lines. The presence of the planes had a significant influence on the indicated direction. These changes in indicated direction depended systematically on the orientation of the planes relative to the subject and on the angle between the planes. When the orientation of the (perpendicular) planes varied from asymmetrical to symmetrical to the frontoparallel plane, the indicated direction varied over a range of 15° - from a slightly larger slant to a smaller slant - as compared with the condition without the contextual planes. When the dihedral angle between the two planes varied from 90° to 40°, the indicated direction varied over a range of less than 5°: A smaller angle led to a slightly larger slant. The standard deviations in the indicated directions (about 3°) did not change systematically. The additional structure provided by the planes did not lead to more consistent pointing. The systematic changes in the indicated direction contradict all theories that assume that the perceived distance between any two given points is independent of whatever else is present in the visual field - that is, they contradict all theories of visual space that assume that its geometry is independent of its contents (e.g., Gilinsky, 1951; Luneburg, 1947; Wagner, 1985).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-539
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000


Dive into the research topics of 'Change in perceived spatial directions due to context'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this