The authors investigated the role of perceptual attunement in an emergency braking task in which participants waited until the last possible moment to slam on the brakes. Effects of the size of the approached object and initial speed on the initiation of braking were used to identify the optical variables on which participants relied at various stages of practice. In Experiments 1A and 1B, size and speed effects that were present early in practice diminished but were not eliminated as participants learned to initiate braking at a rate of optical expansion that varied with optical angle. When size and speed were manipulated together in Experiment 2, the size effect was quickly eliminated, and participants learned to use a 3rd optical variable (global optic flow rate) to nearly eliminate the speed effect. The authors conclude that perceptual attunement depends on the range of practice conditions, the availability of information, and the criteria for success.
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