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Regular version of the site

Working paper

Examining the role of familiarity in the perception of depth

PsyArXiv. PsyArXiv. The Center for Open Science, 2019
Мищенко Е. В., Negishi I., Gorbunova E. S., Sawada T.
Bishop Berkeley suggested that the distance of an object can be estimated if the object’s size is familiar to the observer. The distance can be computed by comparing the size of the retinal image of the object to the memorized size of the object. It has been suggested that humans can perceive the distance of the object by using such “familiarity” information. However, prior experiments looking for an effect of familiarity had not been designed to minimize, or eliminate potential influences of: (i) higher cognitive factors on the observers' responses, or (ii) the influences of low-level image features in the visual stimuli. We tested the familiarity effect in two psychophysical experiments that were conducted both in Russia and in Japan. Forty Russian students and forty Japanese students participated in these experiments. The visual stimuli used were images of three coins in Russia and in 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 effect of familiarity based on our meta-analysis of the "familiarity" effects observed in prior experiments. But, our results in both experiments showed that the familiarity effect on depth perception was virtually zero. Our experiments clearly show that familiarity, studied for the first time without any obvious confounds, does not serve as a cue for depth.