The Perceptual Basis of Vast Space

The Perceptual Basis of Vast Space

Published in: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Volume 24, Issue 6, December 2017, 1870-1878

““Vast” is a word often applied to environmental terrain that is perceived to have large spatial extent. This judgment is made even at viewing distances where traditional metric depth cues are not useful. This paper explores the perceptual basis of vast experience, including reliability and visual precursors. Experiment 1 demonstrated strong agreement in ratings of the spatial extent of two-dimensional (2D) scene images by participants in two countries under very different viewing conditions. Image categories labeled “vast” often exemplified scene attributes of ruggedness and openness (Oliva & Torralba, 2001). Experiment 2 quantitatively assessed whether these properties predict vastness. High vastness ratings were associated with highly open, or moderately open but rugged, scenes. Experiment 3 provided evidence, consistent with theory, that metric distance perception does not directly mediate the observed vastness ratings. The question remains as to how people perceive vast space when information about environmental scale is unavailable from metric depth cues or associated scene properties. We consider possible answers, including contribution from strong cues to relative depth.”

Written by: Roberta L. Klatzky, William B. Thompson, Jeanine K. Stefanucci, Devin Gill, D. Kevin McGee
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