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Exp Brain Res. 2013 May;226(3):383-91. doi: 10.1007/s00221-013-3447-y. Epub 2013 Mar 2.

An older view on distance perception: older adults perceive walkable extents as farther.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, 703 Third St, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. msugovic@purdue.edu


According to the action-specific perception account, spatial perception is affected by the specific energetic costs required to perform an action. In the current experiments, we examined the effect of age on distance perception. Older and younger adults were asked to verbally estimate distance to a target placed in a hallway. Results showed that older adults estimated distances to be farther compared to younger adults. Additionally, older and younger adults estimated distances on a surface that was easier to walk on (carpet) and on a surface that was more difficult to walk on (carpet covered by a plastic tarp). For older adults, distances looked farther on the plastic surface than on the carpet. These differences across surfaces were not found for able, younger adults. These results suggest that the type of floor surface available influences perception of distances. Furthermore, the results suggest that perception is still sensitive to environmental differences that affect ability even as a perceiver ages.

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