Watch this! Observed tool use affects perceived distance

Emily K. Bloesch, Christopher C. Davoli, Noam Roth, James R. Brockmole, Richard A. Abrams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Recent research has shown that being able to interact with an object causes it to be perceived as being closer than objects that cannot be interacted with. In the present study, we examined whether that compression of perceived space would be experienced by people who simply observed such interactions by others with no intention of performing the action themselves. Participants judged the distance to targets after observing an actor reach to an otherwise unreachable target with a tool (Experiment 1) or illuminate a distant target with a laser pointer (Experiment 2). Observing either type of interaction caused a compression of perceived space, revealing that a person's perception of space can be altered through mere observation. These results indicate that shared representations between an actor and observer are engaged at the perceptual level easily and perhaps automatically, even in the absence of cooperation or an observer's own intention to interact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-183
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Mirror effect
  • Visual perception


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