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Atten Percept Psychophys. 2014 May;76(4):1036-44. doi: 10.3758/s13414-014-0639-x.

Visual field dependence as a navigational strategy.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles, 1285 Franz Hall, Los Angeles, CA, 90095, USA, cwilley@ucla.edu.


Visual perception is an important component of environmental navigation. Previous research has revealed large individual differences in navigational strategies (i.e., the body's kinesthetic and embodied approach to movement) and the perception of environmental surfaces (via distance estimations), but little research has investigated the potential relationship between these sources of individual variation. An important navigational strategy is the interaction between reliance on visual cues and vestibular or proprioceptive cues. We investigated the role of this navigational strategy in the perception of environmental surfaces. The results supported three embodied evolutionary predictions: Individuals who were most reliant on visual context (1) overestimated vertical surfaces significantly more, and (2) feared falling significantly more, than did those who were least reliant on visual context; and (3) all individuals had roughly accurate horizontal distance estimates, regardless of their navigational strategy. These are among the first data to suggest that individual differences in perception are closely related to the individual differences in navigation that derive from navigational risks. Variable navigational strategies may reflect variable capacities to perceive and navigate the environment.

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