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Lateral biases in shape from shading : the role of native reading direction



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The human visual system has learned to assume that light originates from above, most likely because of the persistent natural overhead light source – the sun (Ramachandran, 1988). Asymmetries of perception in neurologically normal individuals, like assuming light is coming from above, in part result from efficiency measures of the visual system. Not only is light assumed to come from above, but light from above and to the left has been found to decrease reaction times in target finding as well as increase aesthetic preference (Sun & Perona, 1998; Smith & Elias, 2013). The underlying cause of the bias towards upper-left lighting is debated, and may have a relationship with another peculiar phenomenon in neurologically normal individuals where greater attention is paid to leftward space, called pseudoneglect (Bowers & Heilman, 1980). Alternatively, an explanation suggesting that directional reading influences lighting preferences has been proposed, as Smith and Elias (2013) found native right-to-left readers to be significantly different from leftward biased left-to-right readers. The current set of experiments used eye-tracking and a target finding paradigm to assess differences between left-to-right and right-to-left readers. Manipulating the position of the light illuminating a field of spheres generated targets, creating either 1 convex bubble among 15 concave depressions, or vice-versa. Results from these studies are mixed, and highlight differences between both upper and lower and lateral visual space. Light originating from above facilitated shorter average duration times for both groups, whereas left-to-right readers tended to prefer light from the upper-left, while right-to-left readers preferred light from the upper-right. No one target location in the array facilitated shorter average duration times for right-to-left readers, although left-to-right readers tended to exhibit shorter durations when identifying targets in the upper-left quadrant. Participants spent the greatest amount of time examining the upper quadrants of the array, tending to focus more on the side of the image that their native reading direction begins on. The influence of directional reading on light source perception, and the potential problems of using exclusively Western participant samples are discussed.



Eye tracking, Visual attention, Pseudoneglect, Lighting bias, Leftward bias, Target finding



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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