Faculté des sciences

Foggy perception slows us down

Pretto, Paolo ; Bresciani, Jean-Pierre ; Rainer, Gregor ; Bülthoff, Heinrich H

In: eLife, 2012, vol. 1, p. e00031

Visual speed is believed to be underestimated at low contrast, which has been proposed as an explanation of excessive driving speed in fog. Combining psychophysics measurements and driving simulation, we confirm that speed is underestimated when contrast is reduced uniformly for all objects of the visual scene independently of their distance from the viewer. However, we show that when contrast is... Plus

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    Summary
    Visual speed is believed to be underestimated at low contrast, which has been proposed as an explanation of excessive driving speed in fog. Combining psychophysics measurements and driving simulation, we confirm that speed is underestimated when contrast is reduced uniformly for all objects of the visual scene independently of their distance from the viewer. However, we show that when contrast is reduced more for distant objects, as is the case in real fog, visual speed is actually overestimated, prompting drivers to decelerate. Using an artificial anti-fog—that is, fog characterized by better visibility for distant than for close objects, we demonstrate for the first time that perceived speed depends on the spatial distribution of contrast over the visual scene rather than the global level of contrast per se. Our results cast new light on how reduced visibility conditions affect perceived speed, providing important insight into the human visual system