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The Consequences of Hyper-Arousal for Human Visual Perception Open Access

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The present work presents a literature review and seven experiments exploring the consequences of hyper-arousal for human visual perception. Specifically, we 1) design and validate a simple, non-invasive manipulation of arousal; 2) address whether previous embodied perception research can be explained in terms of the Yerkes-Dodson law; and 3) attempt to identify what factors (e.g., cue availability, memory, etc.) modulate arousal-related effects in visual perception. Experiment 1 validated cold pressor stimulation (CPS - immersing the foot in cold water) as a manipulation of arousal. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated that arousal manipulation (CPS) produced significant enhancement of contrast sensitivity performance, but not egocentric distance estimation. The same results have been demonstrated in the embodied perception literature using manipulations that have co-occurring impact on underlying levels of arousal: physiological effort and emotion (e.g., Phelps et al., 2006; Woods et al., 2009). Experiments 4 and 5 evaluated the influence of hyper-arousal on stereoscopic depth and distance-difference sensitivity, respectively. These tasks represented tasks progressively more similar to egocentric distance perception than contrast sensitivity. CPS significantly enhanced depth, but not distance-difference sensitivity. Experiments 2-5 identified cue availability and duration of memory interval between compared stimuli as two potential factors modulating arousal effects in vision, and confirmed that results follow the Yerkes-Dodson law. Experiments 6 and 7 provide a preliminary evaluation of cue availability and memory as factors modulating arousal effects. Overall, our results indicated that arousal serves as an underlying physiological mechanism of embodied perception in vision.

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