Focus cues affect perceived depth

J Vis. 2005 Dec 15;5(10):834-62. doi: 10.1167/5.10.7.


Depth information from focus cues--accommodation and the gradient of retinal blur--is typically incorrect in three-dimensional (3-D) displays because the light comes from a planar display surface. If the visual system incorporates information from focus cues into its calculation of 3-D scene parameters, this could cause distortions in perceived depth even when the 2-D retinal images are geometrically correct. In Experiment 1 we measured the direct contribution of focus cues to perceived slant by varying independently the physical slant of the display surface and the slant of a simulated surface specified by binocular disparity (binocular viewing) or perspective/texture (monocular viewing). In the binocular condition, slant estimates were unaffected by display slant. In the monocular condition, display slant had a systematic effect on slant estimates. Estimates were consistent with a weighted average of slant from focus cues and slant from disparity/texture, where the cue weights are determined by the reliability of each cue. In Experiment 2, we examined whether focus cues also have an indirect effect on perceived slant via the distance estimate used in disparity scaling. We varied independently the simulated distance and the focal distance to a disparity-defined 3-D stimulus. Perceived slant was systematically affected by changes in focal distance. Accordingly, depth constancy (with respect to simulated distance) was significantly reduced when focal distance was held constant compared to when it varied appropriately with the simulated distance to the stimulus. The results of both experiments show that focus cues can contribute to estimates of 3-D scene parameters. Inappropriate focus cues in typical 3-D displays may therefore contribute to distortions in perceived space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accommodation, Ocular
  • Adult
  • Cues*
  • Depth Perception / physiology*
  • Distance Perception
  • Fixation, Ocular*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Models, Psychological
  • Orientation
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Retina / physiology
  • Vision Disparity
  • Vision, Binocular
  • Vision, Monocular