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Ordinal depth information from accommodation?

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The ability to judge egocentric distance was assessed in two groups of six observers using a manual pointing task. The purpose of the study was to determine the extent to which blur-driven accommodation can provide information on target distance in the absence of any retinal cues to distance. Observers were extremely accurate when carrying out the pointing task in a 'fullcue' condition. In contrast, observers were extremely poor at carrying out the task when accommodation was the only distance cue available. Responses on individual trials bore little relationship to the actual target distance in any of the observers. On the other hand, accommodation weakly biased the mean responses in some observers. This bias appears to be due to the observers' effective use of accommodation to determine whether the target presented in one trial was nearer or further away than the target presented in the previous trial. Accommodation therefore appears to provide ordinal information, although the distance signal may actually arise from accommodation-driven vergence. The poverty of accommodation as a source of metric information was highlighted in a second group of observers who all demonstrated a strong bias when perceiving distance in the presence of an initially ambiguous retinal cue. It is concluded that accommodation can act as a source of ordinal distance information in the absence of other cues to distance but the contribution of accommodation to normal distance perception in full-cue conditions is questioned.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2000

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