Cognitive Daily

We’ve reported here before on the research of Dennis Proffitt on the perception of distance — how wearing a backpack can cause you to perceive distances as longer. Now the team has a new study, which is featured today in In this study, they examine the perception of the steepness of a hill:

To test his hypothesis, Proffitt asked participants to estimate the slant of a hill on the UVA campus, while outfitting some of the subjects with a heavy backpack. They found that subjects donning backpacks estimated the slant to be much steeper than did those who had nothing on their backs.

Here’s the link to the related CogDaily post.


  1. #1 Dr. Mohamed Taher
    July 9, 2006

    Thank you for this great lead.
    I have Information Visualization blog [ ]. Till now I was wondering which category this type of knowledge would fit in. Now, would consider including me into your fraternity, and link this blog?

    Keep up the good work.
    Best, Mohamed

    Some recent posts at my blog, f.y.i.:

  2. [ ] Visualizing the Innernet or Visual Display of the Website’s Infostructure
  3. [ ] Visual Signatures and Information Visualization
  4. [ ]Visual Calendar and Information Visualization Contextualized
  5. [ ]Visual Communication Vistas Revisited
  6. [ ]Scientists and Artists: Who should design learning?
  • #2 Deep Thought
    July 13, 2006

    As an ex-soldier, I can attest that this is a trainable behavior. New arrivals to a tactical unit were expected to be lousy at estimated distance, so many units routinely take them into the field in heavy packs and purposely teach them how to pace of a distance with and without a backpack and do exercises such as firing markers with and without gear, on slopes, etc. Maps and compasses are used for navigation course to teach you to estimate distance accurately. After 2-3 of these exercises, virtually all soldiers were much more accurate at estimating distance, relative altitude, etc.

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