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Exp Brain Res. 2003 Apr;149(4):470-7. Epub 2003 Feb 19.

Grasp effects of the Ebbinghaus illusion: obstacle avoidance is not the explanation.

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Max Planck Institut für Biologische Kybernetik, Spemannstr 38, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


The perception-versus-action hypothesis states that visual information is processed in two different streams, one for visual awareness (or perception) and one for motor performance. Previous reports that the Ebbinghaus illusion deceives perception but not grasping seemed to indicate that this dichotomy between perception and action was fundamental enough to be reflected in the overt behavior of non-neurological, healthy humans. Contrary to this view we show that the Ebbinghaus illusion affects grasping to the same extent as perception. We also show that the grasp effects cannot be accounted for by non-perceptual obstacle avoidance mechanisms as has recently been suggested. Instead, even subtle variations of the Ebbinghaus illusion affect grasping in the same way as they affect perception. Our results suggest that the same signals are responsible for the perceptual effects and for the motor effects of the Ebbinghaus illusion. This casts doubt on one line of evidence, which used to strongly favor the perception-versus-action hypothesis.

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