Judging Distances (06-02-20)

Kolarik and colleagues investigated how perceptions of distances are influenced by impaired vision; their findings are particularly useful for the development of spaces that people with compromised vision are likely to use.  The researchers determined that “Blindness leads to substantial enhancements in many auditory abilities, and deficits in others. . . .  we show that greater severity of visual loss is associated with increased auditory judgments of distance and room size. On average participants with severe visual losses perceived sounds to be twice as far away, and rooms to be three times larger, than sighted controls. . . . As the severity of visual impairment increased, accuracy decreased for closer sounds and increased for farther sounds. However, it is for closer sounds that accurate judgments are needed to guide rapid motor responses to auditory events, e.g. planning a safe path through a busy street to avoid collisions with other people, and falls. Interestingly, greater visual impairment severity was associated with more accurate room size estimates.”

Andrew Kolarik, Rajiv Raman, Brian Moore, Silvia Cirstea, Sarika Gopalakrishnan, and Shahina Pardhan. 2020.  “The Accuracy of Auditory Spatial Judgments in the Visually Impaired is Dependent on Sound Source Distance.”  Scientific Reports, vol. 10, article 7169, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64306-8