Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hong Kong Skyscrapers Appear to Fall in Real-World Illusion

21.06.2013
No matter how we jump, roll, sit, or lie down, our brain manages to maintain a visual representation of the world that stays upright relative to the pull of gravity.
But a new study of rider experiences on the Hong Kong Peak Tram, a popular tourist attraction, shows that specific features of the environment can dominate our perception of verticality, making skyscrapers appear to fall.

The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The Hong Kong Peak Tram to Victoria Peak is a popular way to survey the Hong Kong skyline and millions of people ride the tram every year.

“On one trip, I noticed that the city’s skyscrapers next to the tram started to appear very tilted, as if they were falling, which anyone with common sense knows is impossible,” says lead researcher Chia-huei Tseng of the University of Hong Kong. “The gasps of the other passengers told me I wasn’t the only one seeing it.”

In this schematic diagram of the illusion, the angle è illustrates the approximate deviation of the perceived tilt relative to gravity for a mountain slope of á.

The illusion was perplexing because, in contrast with most illusions studied in the laboratory, observers have complete access to visual cues from the outside world through the tram’s open windows.

Exploring the illusion under various conditions, Tseng and colleagues found that the perceived, or illusory, tilt was greatest on night-time rides, perhaps a result of the relative absence of visual-orientation cues or a heightened sense of enclosure at night. Enhancing the tilted frame of reference within the tram car — indicated by features like oblique window frames, beams, floor, and lighting fixtures — makes the true vertical of the high rises seem to tilt in the opposite direction.

The illusion was significantly reduced by obscuring the window frame and other reference cues inside the tram car, by using wedges to adjust observers’ position, and by having them stand during the tram ride.

But no single modification was sufficient to eliminate the illusion.

“Our findings demonstrate that signals from all the senses must be consonant with each other to abolish the tilt illusion,” the researchers write. “On the tram, it seems that vision dominates verticality perception over other sensory modalities that also mediate earth gravity, such as the vestibular and tactile systems.”

The robustness of the tram illusion took the researchers by surprise:

“We took the same tram up and down for hundreds of trips, and the illusion did not reduce a bit,” says Tseng. “This suggests that our experiences and our learned knowledge about the world — that buildings should be vertical — are not enough to cancel our brain’s wrong conclusion.”

Co-authors on the study include Hiu Mei Chow of the University of Hong Kong and Lothar Spillmann of China Medical University and the University of Freiburg.

The study was supported by grants from the Hong Kong Grant Research Council and the University of Hong Kong Seed Funding Programme for Basic Research to Chia-huei Tseng, and by awards from the Serena Yang Educational Fund and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Council) and National Science Council of Taiwan to Lothar Spillmann.

For more information about this study, please contact: Chia-huei Tseng at ch_tseng@alumni.uci.edu.

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Falling Skyscrapers: When Cross-Modal Perception of Verticality Fails" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.

Anna Mikulak | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

nachricht Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>