The dissociation between perception and action in the Ebbinghaus illusion Academic Article uri icon


  • According to a recently proposed distinction [1] between vision for perception and vision for action, visually guided movements should be largely immune to the perceptually compelling changes in size produced by pictorial illusions. Tests of this prediction that use the Ebbinghaus illusion have revealed only small effects of the illusion on grasp scaling as compared to its effect on perception [2-4]. Nevertheless, some have argued that the small effect on grasp implies that there is a single representation of size for both perception and action [5]. Recent findings, however, suggest that the 2-D pictorial elements, such as those comprising illusory backgrounds, can sometimes be treated as obstacles and thereby influence the programming of grasp [6]. The arrangement of the 2-D elements commonly used in previous studies examining the Ebbinghaus illusion could therefore give rise to an effect on grasp scaling that is independent of its effect on perceptual judgements, even though the two effects are in the same direction. We present evidence demonstrating that when the gap between the target and the illusion-making elements in the Ebbinghaus illusion is equidistant across different perceptual conditions (Figure 1a), the apparent effect of the illusion on grasp scaling is eliminated.

publication date

  • February 2001