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Witt, J., Linkenauger, S., Bakdash, J., Augustyn, J., Cook, A., & Proffitt, D. (2008). The long road of pain: chronic pain increases perceived distance. Experimental Brain Research.

Spatial perception is sensitive to the energetic costs required to perform intended actions. For example, hills look steeper to people who are fatigued or burdened by a heavy load. Similarly, perceived distance is also influenced by the energy required to walk or throw to a target. Such experiments demonstrate that perception is a function, not just of optical information, but also of the perceiver’s potential to act and the energetic costs associated with the intended action. In the current paper, we expand on the notion of “cost” by examining perceived distance in patients diagnosed with chronic pain, a multifactorial disease, which is experienced while walking. We found that chronic pain patients perceive target distances to be farther away compared with a control group. These results indicate the physical, and perhaps emotional, costs of chronic pain affect spatial perceptions.

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