Angular declination and the dynamic perception of egocentric distance
The extraction of the distance between an object and an observer is fast when angular declination is informative, as it is with targets placed on the ground. To what extent does angular declination drive performance when viewing time is limited? Participants judged target distances in a real-world environment with viewing durations ranging from 36-220 ms. An important role for angular declination was supported by experiments showing that the cue provides information about egocentric distance even on the very first glimpse, and that it supports a sensitive response to distance in the absence of other useful cues. Performance was better at 220-ms viewing durations than for briefer glimpses, suggesting that the perception of distance is dynamic even within the time frame of a typical eye fixation. Critically, performance in limited viewing trials was better when preceded by a 15-s preview of the room without a designated target. The results indicate that the perception of distance is powerfully shaped by memory from prior visual experience with the scene. A theoretical framework for the dynamic perception of distance is presented.