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Atten Percept Psychophys. 2014 Feb;76(2):460-72. doi: 10.3758/s13414-013-0578-y.

Gut estimates: Pregnant women adapt to changing possibilities for squeezing through doorways.

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New York University, New York, NY, USA,


Possibilities for action depend on the fit between the body and the environment. Perceiving what actions are possible is challenging, because the body and the environment are always changing. How do people adapt to changes in body size and compression? In Experiment 1, we tested pregnant women monthly over the course of pregnancy to determine whether they adapted to changing possibilities for squeezing through doorways. As women gained belly girth and weight, previously passable doorways were no longer passable, but women's decisions to attempt passage tracked their changing abilities. Moreover, their accuracy was equivalent to that of nonpregnant adults. In Experiment 2, nonpregnant adults wore a "pregnancy pack" that instantly increased the size of their bellies, and they judged whether doorways were passable. Accuracy in the "pregnant" participants was only marginally worse than that of actual pregnant women, suggesting that participants adapted to the prosthesis during the test session. In Experiment 3, participants wore the pregnancy pack and gauged passability before and after attempting passage. The judgments were grossly inaccurate prior to receiving feedback. These findings indicate that experience facilitates perceptual-motor recalibration for certain types of actions.

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