Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1.

The change presented by the constant error can here be interpreted only speculatively.  I believe it is a frequently noted fact that the lights in a distant house or other familiar illuminated object on land, and especially the signal lights on a vessel at sea appear higher than their respective positions by day, to the degree at times of creating the illusion that they hang suspended above the earth or water.  This falls in with the experimental results set forth in the preceding table.  It cannot be attributed to an uncomplicated tendency of the eyes of a person seated in such a position to seek a lower direction than the objective horizon, when freed from the corrective restraint of a visual field, as will be seen when the results of judgments made in complete darkness are cited, in which case the direction of displacement is reversed.  The single illuminated spot which appears in the surrounding region of darkness, and upon which the eye of the observer is directed as he makes his judgment, in the former case restricts unconscious wanderings of the eye, and sets up a process of continuous and effortful fixation which accompanies each act of determination.  I attribute the depression of the eyes to this process of binocular adjustment.  The experience of strain in the act of fixation increases and decreases with the distance of the object regarded.  In a condition of rest the axes of vision of the eyes tend to become parallel; and from this point onward the intensity of the effort accompanying the process of fixation increases until, when the object has passed the near-point of vision, binocular adjustment is no longer possible.  In the general distribution of objects in the visual field the nearer, for the human being, is characteristically the lower, the more distant the higher, as one looks in succession from the things at his feet to the horizon and vice versa.  We should, therefore, expect to find, when the eyes are free to move in independence of a determinate visual field, that increased convergence is accompanied by a depression of the line of sight, decreased convergence by an elevation of it.  Here such freedom was permitted, and though the fixed distance of the point of regard eliminated all large fluctuations in convergence, yet all the secondary characteristics of intense convergence were present.  Those concerned in the experiment report that the whole process of visual adjustment had increased in difficulty, and that the sense of effort was distinctly greater.  To this sharp rise in the general sense of strain, in cooeperation with the absence of a corrective field of objects, I attribute the large negative displacement of the subjective horizon in this series of experiments.

III.

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Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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