Theories of embodied perception hold that the visual system is calibrated by both the body schema and the action system, allowing for adaptive action-perception responses. One example of embodied perception involves the effects of tool use on distance perception, in which wielding a tool with the intention to act upon a target appears to bring that object closer. This tool-based spatial compression (i.e., tool-use effect) has been studied exclusively with younger adults, but it is unknown whether the phenomenon exists with older adults. In this study, we examined the effects of tool use on distance perception in younger and older adults in 2 experiments. In Experiment 1, younger and older adults estimated the distances of targets just beyond peripersonal space while either wielding a tool or pointing with the hand. Younger adults, but not older adults, estimated targets to be closer after reaching with a tool. In Experiment 2, younger and older adults estimated the distance to remote targets while using either a baton or a laser pointer. Younger adults displayed spatial compression with the laser pointer compared to the baton, although older adults did not. Taken together, these findings indicate a generalized absence of the tool-use effect in older adults during distance estimation, suggesting that the visuomotor system of older adults does not remap from peripersonal to extrapersonal spatial representations during tool use.
- Distance perception
- Tool use