Palm Boards Are Not Action Measures: An Alternative To The Two-Systems Theory Of Geographical Slant Perception

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Acta Psychologica


Whereas most reports of the perception of outdoor hills demonstrate dramatic overestimation, estimates made by adjusting a palm board are much closer to the true hill orientation. We test the dominant hypothesis that palm board accuracy is related to the need for motor action to be accurately guided and conclude instead that the perceptual experience of palm-board orientation is biased and variable due to poorly calibrated proprioception of wrist flexion. Experiments 1 and 3 show that wrist-flexion palm boards grossly underestimate the orientations of near, reachable surfaces whereas gesturing with a free hand is fairly accurate. Experiment 2 shows that palm board estimates are much lower than free hand estimates for an outdoor hill as well. Experiments 4 shows that wrist flexion is biased and noisy compared to elbow flexion, while Experiment 5 shows that small changes in palm board height produce large changes in palm board estimates. Together, these studies suggest that palm boards are biased and insensitive measures. The existing literature arguing that there are two systems in the perception of geographical slant is re-evaluated, and a new theoretical framework is proposed in which a single exaggerated representation of ground-surface orientation guides both action and perception.