Searching for invariance: Geographical and optical slant

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When we move through rigid environments, surface orientations of static objects do not appear to change. Most studies have investigated the perception of optical slant which is dependent on the perspective of the observer. We investigated the perception of geographical slant, which is invariant across different viewing perspectives, and compared it to optical slant. In Experiment 1, participants viewed a 3D triangular target surface with triangular phosphorescent texture elements presented at eye level at one of 5 slants from 0° to 90°, at 0° or 40° tilt. Participants turned around to adjust a 2D line or a 3D surface to match the slant of the target surface. In Experiment 2, the difference between optical and geographical slant was increased by changing the height of the surface to be judged. In Experiment 3, target surfaces were rotated by 50° (±25°) and viewed in both a dark and lighted room. In Experiment 1, the overall pattern of judgments exhibited only slight differences between response measures. In Experiment 2, slant judgments were slightly overestimated when the surface was at a low height and at 0° tilt. We compared optical slants of the surfaces to geographical slants. While sometimes inaccurate, participants’ slant judgments remained invariant across changes in viewing perspective. In Experiment 3, judgments were the same in the dark and lighted conditions. There was no effect of target motion on judgments, although variability decreased. We conclude that participants’ judgments were predicted by geographical slant, not optical slant.

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