Judging egocentric distance on the ground: Occlusion and surface integration

Zijiang J. He, Bing Wu, Teng Leng Ooi, Gary Yarbrough, Jun Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


On the basis of the finding that a common and homogeneous ground surface is vital for accurate egocentric distance judgments (Sinai et al, 1998 Nature 395 497-500), we propose a sequential-surface-integration-process (SSIP) hypothesis to elucidate how the visual system constructs a representation of the ground-surface in the intermediate distance range. According to the SSIP hypothesis, a near ground-surface representation is formed from near depth cues, and is utilized as an anchor to integrate the more distant surfaces by using texture-gradient information as the depth cue. The SSIP hypothesis provides an explanation for the finding that egocentric distance judgment is underestimated when a texture boundary exists on the ground surface that commonly supports the observer and target. We tested the prediction that the fidelity of the visually represented ground-surface reference frame depends on how the visual system selects the surface information for integration. Specifically, if information is selected along a direct route between the observer and target where the ground surface is disrupted by an occluding object, the ground surface will be inaccurately represented. In experiments 1-3 we used a perceptual task and two different visually directed tasks to show that this leads to egocentric distance underestimation. Judgment is accurate however, when the observer selects the continuous ground information bypassing the occluding object (indirect route), as found in experiments 4 and 5 with a visually directed task. Altogether, our findings provide support for the SSIP hypothesis and reveal, surprisingly, that the phenomenal visual space is not unique but depends on how optic information is selected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)789-806
Number of pages18
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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