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Witt, J.K., Proffitt, D.R., & Epstein, W. (2005). Tool use affects perceived distance but only when you intend to use it. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31, 880-888.

Recent research demonstrates neurological and behavioral differences in people's responses to the space that is within and beyond reach. The current studies demonstrated a perceptual difference as well. Reachability was manipulated by having participants reach with and without a tool. Across two conditions, in which participants either held a tool or not, targets were presented at the same distances. Perceived distances to targets within reach holding the tool were compressed compared to targets that were beyond reach without it. These results suggest that reachability serves as a metric for perception. The third experiment found that reachability only influenced perceived distance when the perceiver intended to reach. These experiments suggest that we perceive the environment in terms of our intentions and abilities to act within it.

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