Examining the role of familiarity in the perception of depth
Bishop Berkeley suggested that the distance of an object can be estimated if the object’s size is familiar to the observer. It has been suggested that humans can perceive the distance of the object by using such “familiarity” information, but most or many of the prior experiments that found an effect of familiarity were not designed to minimize or eliminate potential influences of: higher cognitive factors on the observers’ responses, or the influences of low-level image features in the visual stimuli used. We looked for the familiarity effect in two experiments conducted both in Russia and Japan. The visual stimuli used were images of three coins used in Russia and Japan. The participants’ depth perception was measured with a multiple-choice task testing the perceived depth-order of the coins. Our expectation was that any effect of “familiarity” on depth perception would only be observed with the coins of the participant’s country. We expected a substantial familiarity effect based on our meta-analysis of the “familiarity” effects observed in prior experiments. But, our results in both experiments showed that the familiarity effect was virtually zero. These findings suggest that the importance of a familiarity effect in depth perception should be reconsidered.