Do monocular time-to-collision estimates necessarily involve perceived distance?

Robert Gray, David Regan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Motivated by the debate between indirect and direct theories of perception, a large number of researchers have attempted to determine whether judgments of time to collision are based on the ratio of perceived distance to perceived speed or on the ratio θ/(dθ/dt), ie tau. Despite the considerable research effort devoted to this question there seems to be no clear resolution. We used a staircase tracking procedure to estimate errors in estimating time to collision for a simulated approaching object. To investigate the role of perceived distance in the judgment of time to collision, we asked observers to alternate between two viewing distances (100 and 500 cm). For the 500 cm viewing distance, we magnified the visual display by a factor of five so that the retinal images [and the values of θ/(dθ/dt) through time] were identical for the two viewing distances. All visual cues to distance were available. There were no significant differences between estimates of time to collision made at the two viewing distances. We conclude that our observers ignored perceived distance when estimating time to collision and based their responses on θ/(dθ/dt). We concur with recent proposals that, in the future, time-to-collision research should move away from the either/or analysis of different information sources that has dominated previous studies towards investigations of how different information sources are integrated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1257-1264
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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