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Neuropsychologia. 1999 Dec;37(13):1437-44.

More thoughts on perceiving and grasping the Müller-Lyer illusion.

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Neuropsychology Research Group, Department of Psychology, The University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.


It has been suggested that the insensitivity of the visuomotor system to various visual illusions is based on mechanisms in the so-called 'dorsal stream' of primate extrastriate cortex, which may depend upon binocular cues for their functions. The present study investigated the effects of binocular and monocular viewing on perception of and action to Müller-Lyer figures. Fourteen participants were required to match and grasp the shaft of a Müller-Lyer display under both viewing conditions. In the matching condition, participants were required to show the perceived extent of the central shaft of one of the two Müller-Lyer figures, using the extent of the gap between their finger and thumb. In the grasping task, participants were required to quickly and accurately reach out and grasp the central shaft of the specified Müller-Lyer figure. First, there was a striking effect of the illusion on the matching performance under both viewing conditions. However, the maximum grip aperture remained unaffected by the illusion figures. These results add to the theory of distinct modes of visual processing for perception and action. However, we did not find that grasping performance was affected by the illusion under monocular conditions. It is plausible that monocular depth cues distinct from those responsible for the illusion can successfully drive accurate grasping. Additional concerns regarding claims of action system resistance to the perceptual distortions of various illusions are discussed.

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