Thursday, 23 August 2012

Targets look bigger after a shot that felt good

Bigger targets are easier to hit, obviously. But did you know this relationship works backwards? That is, targets that we consider hittable look bigger as a result. The finding is consistent with James Gibson's Theory of Affordances, whereby the ways we can use our bodies to interact with the environment affects our perception of that environment.

Yang Lee at Gyeongsang National University in South Korea, and his colleagues, began their study by asking nine experienced archers to fire at targets of five different sizes located 50 meters away. After they released each arrow, the participants were instructed to turn their heads so that they couldn't see the path of their shot. Upon each arrow hitting home, a screen was also pulled across to prevent the archers from seeing how successful they'd been.

After each shot, the archers chose which of 18 miniature targets on a card most closely matched the size of the target they'd just fired at. The size of the miniatures went from 10mm diameter to 27mm, designed to represent the apparent size of the real target, as seen from a 50m distance.

Although they couldn't see the success of the shots they'd fired, the archers' judgements of the size of the targets was related to the accuracy of their shots. In fact, their size judgments were more strongly related to their accuracy than they were to the actual size of the targets. Specifically, targets were perceived as bigger after a more accurate shot, even though the archers had no access to objective feedback about their performance.

Lee and his colleagues think that archers are able to tell how hittable a shot is based on bodily feedback about their form and chances of success. If a target is hittable then it is adaptive (i.e. useful in an evolutionary sense) that it should be perceived as larger. To test this idea, a second study involved 20 novices preparing to shoot arrows at targets located 50m away. In this study, the participants didn't actually fire the arrows. After each drawing of an arrow, they stopped and estimated the size of the distant target. The crucial twist was that some arrows were drawn back with the aid of a stabilising tripod and some weren't. The aim of the stabiliser was to provoke the sense in the archers, based on bodily feedback, that they had a better chance of hitting the target. In turn this was expected to affect their perception of the targets. That's exactly what was found - targets were perceived to be larger after they'd been viewed in the context of a stabilised draw back.

These intriguing new findings add to a growing literature linking performance with size estimations - for example, it's also been shown that golf putters perceive holes as bigger after a successful putt.


Lee Y, Lee S, Carello C, & Turvey MT (2012). An Archer's Perceived Form Scales the "Hitableness" of Archery Targets. Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance PMID: 22731994

Post written by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.


Chris Chambers said...

Really interesting result.

I haven't had a chance to read the paper yet, but is an alternative explanation that the target was perceived larger on more accurate shots because of a simple attentional effect?

We know that attention can increase the perceived size of objects (e.g. So it's conceivable that shot-to-shot fluctuations in the attentional focus of the archer (prior to the shot being taken) could influence both the accuracy of the shot and the perceived size of the target.

The same explanation could apply to their second experiment - by creating a more realistic simulation of actual archery, the stabilising tripod could have induced a more focused state of attention on the target, thereby increasing it's perceived size...

Andrew said...

One issue is why would attention increase perceived size? Perhaps because better attention means better performance underpinned by improved perception of the relevant affordance property? Increased attention isn't much of an explanation for anything, regardless; the question that always remains is, attention to what?

Unknown said...

And you'd think that increased attention to the target would simply lead to more accuracy in its percieved size, not just increase in percieved size itself.

Child Psychologist said...

As a therapist I am Totally agree with your blog . thanks for sharing.

Shawn Welsch said...

The second study in this article is a great example of the experimental method. The Stabilizing Tripod represents the independent variable. The perception of the size of the target after the arrows were drawn with or without a tripod represent the dependent variable.

Unknown said...

I thinks its interesting that experiment one and two both have positive correlation between size judgement and accuracy. This goes to show that whether you're good or not, if it feels like you can do it, you have a chance of succeeding. Also, the fact that the article mentioned the evolutionary perspective was really accurate. Even though i don't believe in evolution, i see the connection and how it would be useful for survival and natural selection.

Cory Clark said...

I agree that belief or feeling success, actually leads to success. Once a person achieves a goal, they then know what their body or mind did to enable them to do it. They then can repeat the task with success.

generico said...

Bigger targets are easier to hit, obviously. But did you know this relationship works backwards? That is, targets that we consider hittable look bigger as a result.

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