A biological system is often more efficient when it takes advantage of the regularities in its environment1,2. Like other terrestrial creatures, our spatial sense relies on the regularities associated with the ground surface2-6. A simple, but important, ecological fact is that the field of view of the ground surface extends upwards from near (feet) to infinity (horizon)2. It forms the basis of a trigonometric relationship wherein the further an object on the ground is, the higher in the field of view it looks, with an object at infinity being seen at the horizon. Here, we provide support for the hypothesis that the visual system uses the angular declination below the horizon for distance judgement. Using a visually directed action task7-10, we found that when the angular declination was increased by binocularly viewing through base-up prisms, the observer underestimated distance. After adapting to the same prisms, however, the observer overestimated distance on prism removal. Most significantly, we show that the distance overestimation as an after-effect of prism adaptation was due to a lowered perceived eye level, which reduced the object's angular declination below the horizon.
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