Ebbinghaus figures that deceive the eye do not necessarily deceive the hand

  • Knol Hester
  • Huys Raoul
  • Sarrazin Jean-Christophe
  • Spiegler Andreas
  • Jirsa Viktor


In support of the visual stream dissociation hypothesis, which states that distinct visual streams serve vision-for-perception and vision-for-action, visual size illusions were reported over 20 years ago to `deceive the eye but not the hand'. Ever since, inconclusive results and contradictory interpretations have accumulated. Therefore, we investigated the effects of the Ebbinghaus figure on repetitive aiming movements with distinct dynamics. Participants performed a Fitts' task in which Ebbinghaus figures served as targets. We systematically varied the three parameters which have been shown to influence the perceived size of the Ebbinghaus figure's target circle, namely the size of the target, its distance to the context circles and the size of the context circles. This paper shows that movement is significantly affected by the context size, but, in contrast to perception, not by the other two parameters. This is especially prominent in the approach phase of the movement towards the target, regardless of the dynamics. To reconcile the findings, we argue that different informational variables are used for size perception and the visual control of movements irrespective of whether certain variables induce (perceptual) illusions.