Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The present study examined whether the learned pictorial depth cue of “familiar size” could be used to plan a reaching and grasping movement in the absence of binocular vision. Sixteen right-handed subjects were presented with two different arrays, under monocular and binocular viewing conditions, in which a range of different “grasp-sized” spheres that were lit from within could be presented in an otherwise darkened environment. In the “familiar-size” presentation array, only one “standard” sized sphere was presented, which gave subjects an opportunity to learn the relationship between the standard sphere's retinal image size and its distance. In the “multiple” spheres presentation array, subjects could not learn such a relationship because on any one trial, one of four different sphere sizes could be present. In a second experiment, the effects of this paradigm on six subjects' perceptual reports of distance were examined by having subjects slide their index fingers apart along a horizontal rod to indicate the estimated distance of the spheres. When familiar size could not be used as a cue to distance, subjects produced more on-line corrections in their reaching and grasping movements to the standard-sized spheres—but only under monocular viewing conditions. It appears that subjects are able to exploit the learned relationship between an object's distance and its projected retinal image size to help program and control reaching and grasping movements when binocular vision is not available. Although the influence of familiar size on subjects' perceptual estimates is less clear, it is clear that subjects' perceptual estimates show poor absolute scaling for distance. This result further supports the notion that under normal viewing conditions the visuomotor system uses binocular information to program and control manual prehension, but is able to use pictorial information when binocular vision is denied.