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Phenomenal regression to the real object in physical and virtual worlds

Elner, Kevin W.; Wright, Helen


Kevin W. Elner

Helen Wright


© 2014, Springer-Verlag London. In this paper, we investigate a new approach to comparing physical and virtual size and depth percepts that captures the involuntary responses of participants to different stimuli in their field of view, rather than relying on their skill at judging size, reaching or directed walking. We show, via an effect first observed in the 1930s, that participants asked to equate the perspective projections of disc objects at different distances make a systematic error that is both individual in its extent and comparable in the particular physical and virtual setting we have tested. Prior work has shown that this systematic error is difficult to correct, even when participants are knowledgeable of its likelihood of occurring. In fact, in the real world, the error only reduces as the available cues to depth are artificially reduced. This makes the effect we describe a potentially powerful, intrinsic measure of VE quality that ultimately may contribute to our understanding of VE depth compression phenomena.


Elner, K. W., & Wright, H. (2015). Phenomenal regression to the real object in physical and virtual worlds. Virtualreality : the journal of the Virtual Reality Society, 19(1), 21-31.

Acceptance Date Nov 24, 2014
Online Publication Date Dec 6, 2014
Publication Date 2015-03
Deposit Date Oct 2, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Virtual reality
Print ISSN 1359-4338
Electronic ISSN 1434-9957
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 1
Pages 21-31
Keywords Virtual environments, Depth and size perception, Depth compression, Index of phenomenal regression, Thouless ratio, Brunswik ratio
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article published in: Virtual reality, 2015, v.19, issue 1. The final publication is available at Springer via


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