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Percept Psychophys. 1995 Nov;57(8):1163-74.

The box alignment illusion: an orientation illusion induced by pictorial depth.

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  • 1University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


In four experiments, observers attempted to align two sets of oblique edges to parallel. The contexts for these alignments included lines in isolation (2-D control), lines embedded in orthogonal drawings of same-oriented and different-oriented boxes (3-D objects), and each of these viewed against backgrounds depicting strong linear perspective (3-D backgrounds). A consistent distortion was observed in the alignments of different-oriented boxes relative to control lines, indicating that the parallel lines in these stimuli appeared to diverge toward the top of the picture. Furthermore, this box alignment illusion decreased with interstimulus distance, whereas alignment distortions in control lines and same-oriented boxes increased with distance. Viewing the stimuli against 3-D backgrounds produced a dramatic reversal of the illusion, with control lines now appearing to converge more than the boxes. These results suggest that the illusion reflects basic processes involved in pictorial depth perception.

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