Action-Specific Influences on Distance Perception: A Role for Motor Simulation

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Perception is influenced by the perceiver's ability to perform intended actions. For example, when people intend to reach with a tool to targets that are just beyond arm's reach, the targets look closer than when they intend to reach without the tool (J. K. Witt, D. R. Proffitt, & W. Epstein, 2005). This is one of several examples demonstrating that behavioral potential affects perception. However, the action-specific processes that are involved in relating the person's abilities to perception have yet to be explored. Four experiments are presented that implicate motor simulation as a mediator of these effects. When a perceiver intends to perform an action, the perceiver runs a motor simulation of that action. The perceiver's ability to perform the action, as determined by the outcome of the simulation, influences perceived distance.

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