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 Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke

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: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>