What do hands know about hills? Interpreting Taylor-Covill and Eves (2013) in context

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Abstract

Hills appear much steeper than they are. Although near surface slant is also exaggerated, near surfaces appear much shallower than equivalently slanted hills. Taylor-Covill and Eves (2013) propose a new type of palm orientation measuring device that provides outputs that accurately reflect the physical slants of stairs and hills from 19 to 30° and also seems to accurately reflect the slants of near surfaces (25-30°). They question the validity of the observations of Durgin, Hajnal, Li, Tonge & Stigliani (2010), who observed that palm boards grossly underestimated near surfaces. Here I review our recent work on the visual and haptic perception of near surface orientation in order to place Taylor-Covill and Eves' arguments in context. I note in particular that free hand measures of real surfaces in near space show excellent calibration, but free hand measures show gross exaggeration for hills. This leads to the question of the grounds for preferring a mechanical device to a freely wielded hand. In addition I report an investigative replication of the crucial observations that led to our concerns about the value of palm boards as measures of perception and note the specific methodological details that we have accounted for in our procedures. Finally, I propose some testable hypotheses regarding how better-than-expected haptic matches to hills may arise. © 2013 The Authors.

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Durgin, F. H. (2013). What do hands know about hills? Interpreting Taylor-Covill and Eves (2013) in context. Acta Psychologica, 144(2), 451–458. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.07.014

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