Investigation of visual space using an exocentric pointing task

Raymond H. Cuijpers, A. M L Kappers, Jan J. Koenderink

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Classically, it has been assumed that visual space can be represented by a metric. This means that the distance between points and the angle between lines can be uniquely defined. However, this assumption has never been tested. Also, measurements outdoors, where monocular cues are abundant, conflict with this model. This paper reports on two experiments in which the structure of visual space was investigated, using an exocentric pointing task. In the first experiment, we measured the influence of the separation between pointer and target and of the orientation of the stimuli with respect to the observer. This was done both monocularly and binocularly. It was found that the deviation of the pointer settings depended linearly on the orientation, indicating that visual space is anisotropic. The deviations for configurations that were symmetrical in the median plane were approximately the same, indicating that left/right symmetry was maintained. The results for monocular and binocular conditions were very different, which indicates that stereopsis was an important cue. In both conditions, there were large deviations from the veridical. In the second experiment, the relative distance of the pointer and the target with respect to the observer was varied in both the monocular and the binocular conditions. The relative distance turned out to be the main parameter for the ranges used (1-5 m). Any distance function must have an expanding and a compressing part in order to describe the data. In the binocular case, the results were much more consistent than in the monocular case and had a smaller standard deviation. Nevertheless, the systematic mispointings remained large. It can therefore be concluded that stereopsis improves space perception but does not improve veridicality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1556-1571
Number of pages16
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2000


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