April 26, 2022

Measuring up the World in Size and Distance Perception

Abstract

An empirically based view of size and distance perceptual content and phenomenology is introduced, in which perceivers measure worldly size and distance against their bodies. Central principles of the formal, representational theory of the measurement of extensive magnitudes are then applied in framing the account in a precise way. The question of whether spatial-perceptual experience is “unit-free” is clarified. The framework is used to assess Dennis Proffitt’s proposal that spatial setting is perceived in various “units,” “scales,” or “rulers”, some of them non-spatial—distance in terms of calories burned to traverse and the like. The debate between Proffitt and Firestone about the commensurability of differing measurement scales held by Proffitt to be relied on by perceivers is then clarified and resolved. Finally, the measurement theory framed account of size and distance perception is used to illuminate Gibson’s famous but elusive contrasts between “geometrical optics” and “ecological optics” and between the “physical world” and the “animal environment”.

April 26, 2022 at 04:01PM

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