When what we need influences what we see: choice of energetic replenishment is linked with perceived steepness

Guy A H Taylor-Covill, Frank F Eves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The apparent steepness of the locomotor challenge presented by hills and staircases is overestimated in explicit awareness. Experimental evidence suggests the visual system may rescale our conscious experience of steepness in line with available energy resources. Skeptics of this "embodied" view argue that such findings reflect experimental demand. This article tested whether perceived steepness was related to resource choices in the built environment. Travelers in a station estimated the slant angle of a 6.45 m staircase (23.4°) either before (N = 302) or after (N = 109) choosing from a selection of consumable items containing differing levels of energetic resources. Participants unknowingly allocated themselves to a quasi-experimental group based on the energetic resources provided by the item they chose. Consistent with a resource based model, individuals that chose items with a greater energy density, or more rapidly available energy, estimated the staircase as steeper than those opting for items that provided less energetic resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)915-9
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved.


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention
  • Awareness
  • Choice Behavior
  • Culture
  • Distance Perception
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Environment Design
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Physical Exertion
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Spatial Processing
  • Travel
  • Young Adult


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