Is prior knowledge of object geometry used in visually guided reaching?

Bruce Hartung, Paul R. Schrater, Heinrich H. Bülthoff, Daniel Kersten, Volker H. Franz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated whether humans use prior knowledge of the geometry of faces in visually guided reaching. When viewing the inside of a mask of a face, the mask is often perceived as being a normal (convex) face, instead of the veridical, hollow (concave) shape. In this "hollow-face illusion," prior knowledge of the shape of faces dominates perception, even when in conflict with information from binocular disparity. Computer images of normal and hollow faces were presented, such that depth information from binocular disparity was consistent or in conflict with prior knowledge of the geometry. Participants reached to touch either the nose or cheek of the faces or gave verbal estimates of the corresponding distances. We found that reaching to touch was dominated by prior knowledge of face geometry. However, hollow faces were estimated to be flatter than normal faces. This suggests that the visual system combines binocular disparity and prior assumptions, rather than completely discounting one or the other. When comparing the magnitude of the hollow-face illusion in reaching and verbal tasks, we found that the flattening effect of the illusion was similar for verbal and reaching tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)504-514
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Jun 10


  • Haptic feedback
  • Hollow-face illusion
  • Reaching
  • Visual motor control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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