The Effects of Simple Action on Perception

Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2013

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



For a while it has been known that perception is used to guide action (e.g., Woodworth, 1899). However only recently has it been established that this interaction goes both ways–action can also affect perception. For example, research has revealed that one's ability to interact with the environment can affect perception. More specifically, participants that are fatigued or wearing a heavy backpack (Bhalla & Profitt, 1999) or glucose depleted (Schnall, Zadra, & Proffitt, 2010) perceive distances further or slopes steeper than people that are non-fatigued, unburdened, or nourished. In addition to one's ability to interact with the environment, one’s actual actions can affect perception. For example, when participants lift a heavy box they rate a box lifted by another participant as lighter than if they were not lifting a box (Hamilton, Wolpert, and Frith, 2004). Furthermore, being able to interact with an object (e.g., with a reach extending tool or laser pointer; Witt, Proffitt, & Epstein, 2005; Davoli, Brockmole & Witt, 2012) scales perception so that those objects are perceived to be closer than ones that participants cannot interact with.

Other research has indicated that preparing an action can affect subsequent perception. For example, Deubel and Schneider (1996) illustrated that target discrimination is facilitated at the location of a planned saccade compared to other nearby locations for which an action was not planned. In addition, planning a specific type of hand movement can affect perception. For example, when individuals are preparing to grasp an object they become more sensitive to features relevant to grasping (e.g., orientation or size) than those irrelevant to grasping (e.g., color or luminance; Bekkering & Neggers, 2002; Wykowska, Schubӧ, & Hommel, 2009). In addition, specific grasps facilitate grasp-relevant perception. When participants prepared to make a power grip they detected large objects more quickly than small objects in a change detection paradigm, whereas when they prepared a precision grip detection of smaller objects was facilitated (Symes, Tucker, Ellis, Vainio, & Ottoboni, 2008).


English (en)


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7057CWT

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