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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1987 Aug;13(3):323-34.

Rigidity in cinema seen from the front row, side aisle.

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Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-7601.


Pictures and cinema seen at a slant present the optics of virtual objects that are distorted and inconsistent with their real counterparts. In particular, it should not be possible for moving objects on slanted film and television screens to be seen as rigid, at least according to rules of linear perspective. Previous approaches to this problem have suggested that some process (perhaps cognitive) rectifies the optics of objects in slanted pictures to derive true shape and preserve shape constancy. The means for this rectification is usually thought to be based on recovery of true screen slant. In three experiments I show that this account is unnecessary and insufficient to explain the perception of rotating, rectangular objects in slanted cinema. I present data in favor of an alternate view, one in which the information is sufficient for perceivers to determine rigidity in an object on slanted screens, at least for parallel projections. In the human visual system, local measurements of objects are apparently made according to projective geometry; in those measurements, small amounts of certain distortions in projection are tolerated. Stimuli that appear nonrigid are ones that violate certain local principles, known as Perkins's laws, of projections of rectangular solids.

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