Do We See Scale?

Do We See Scale?

Abstract

The visual system is supposed to extract distance information from the environment in order to scale the size and distance of objects in the visual scene. The purpose of this article is to challenge this account in three stages. First, I identify three shortcomings of the literature on vergence as our primary cue to near distances. Second, I present the results from two experiments that control for these shortcomings, but at the cost of eradicating vergence and accommodation as effective distance cues (average gain of y = 0.161x + 38.64). Third, I argue that if all our cues to distance are either (i) ineffective (vergence; accommodation; motion parallax), (ii) merely relative (angular size; diplopia), or (iii) merely cognitive (familiar size; vertical disparity), then the visual system does not appear to extract absolute distance information, and we should be open to the possibility that vision functions without scale.

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Paul Linton
Centre for Applied Vision Research

Vision scientist working on 3D vision. Author of The Perception and Cognition of Visual Space (Palgrave, 2017).