Perceptual space in the dark affected by the intrinsic bias of the visual system

Teng Leng Ooi, Bing Wu, Zijiang J. He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Correct judgment of egocentric/absolute distance in the intermediate distance range requires both the angular declination below the horizon and ground-surface information being represented accurately. This requirement can be met in the light environment but not in the dark, where the ground surface is invisible and hence cannot be represented accurately. We previously showed that a target in the dark is judged at the intersection of the projection line from the eye to the target that defines the angular declination below the horizon and an implicit surface. The implicit surface can be approximated as a slant surface with its far end slanted toward the frontoparallel plane. We hypothesize that the implicit slant surface reflects the intrinsic bias of the visual system and helps to define the perceptual space. Accordingly, we conducted two experiments in the dark to further elucidate the characteristics of the implicit slant surface. In the first experiment we measured the egocentric location of a dimly lit target on, or above, the ground, using the blind-walking-gesturing paradigm. Our results reveal that the judged target locations could be fitted by a line (surface), which indicates an intrinsic bias with a geographical slant of about 12.4°. In the second experiment, with an exocentric/relative- distance task, we measured the judged ratio of aspect ratio of a fluorescent L-shaped target. Using trigonometric analysis, we found that the judged ratio of aspect ratio can be accounted for by assuming that the L-shaped target was perceived on an implicit slant surface with an average geographical slant of 14.4°. That the data from the two experiments with different tasks can be fitted by implicit slant surfaces suggests that the intrinsic bias has a role in determining perceived space in the dark. The possible contribution of the intrinsic bias to representing the ground surface and its impact on space perception in the light environment are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-624
Number of pages20
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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