The general nature of the factors which enter into the orientation of the main axes of our bodies, under normal and abnormal conditions, has been of much interest to the psychologist in connection with the problem of the development of space and movement perception. The special points of attack in this general investigation have comprised, firstly, the separation of resident, or organic, from transient, or objective, factors; secondly, the determination of the special organic factors which enter into the mechanism of judgment and their several values; and thirdly, within this latter field, the resolution of the problem of a special mechanism of spatial orientation, the organ of the static sense.
The special problem with which we are here concerned relates to the group of factors upon which depends one’s judgment that any specified object within the visual field lies within the horizontal plane of the eyes, or above or below that plane, and the several functions and values of these components. The method of procedure has been suggested by the results of preceding investigations in this general field.
The first aim of the experiments was to separate the factors of resident and transient sensation, and to determine the part played by the presence of a diversified visual field. To do so it was necessary to ascertain, for each member of the experimental group, the location of the subjective visual horizon, and the range of uncertainty in the observer’s location of points within that plane. Twelve observers in all took part in the investigation. In the first set of experiments no attempt was made to change the ordinary surroundings of the observer, except in a single point, namely, the provision that there should be no extended object within range of the subject’s vision having horizontal lines on a level with his eyes.
The arrangements for experimentation were as follows: A black wooden screen, six inches wide and seven feet high, was mounted between two vertical standards at right angles to the axis of vision of the observer. Vertically along the center of this screen and over pulleys at its top and bottom passed a silk cord carrying a disc of white cardboard, 1 cm. in diameter, which rested against the black surface of the screen. From the double pulley at the bottom of the frame the two ends of the cord passed outward to the observer, who, by pulling one or the other, could adjust the disc to any desired position. On the opposite side of the screen from the observer was mounted a vertical scale graduated in millimeters, over which passed a light index-point attached to the silk cord, by means of which the position of the cardboard disc in front was read off. The observer was seated in an adjustable chair with chin and head rests, and a lateral sighting-tube by which the position of the eyeball could be vertically and horizontally aligned. The distance from the center of the eyeball to the surface of the screen opposite was so arranged that, neglecting the radial deflection, a displacement of 1 mm. in either direction was equal to a departure of one minute of arc from the plane of the eyes’ horizon.