Space & Body Perception

Avatars to study human behavior

In the Space and Body Perception research group, our aim was to investigate human perception and behavior using ecologically valid and immersive virtual reality (VR). At the same time we considered the implications of our scientific results for improving design specifications for VR software and technology. VR equipment enabled our scientists to provide sensory stimulus in a controlled virtual world and to manipulate or alter sensory input that would not be possible in the real world.

More specifically, we were able to specifically manipulate the visual body, the contents of the virtual world, and the sensory stimulus (visual, vestibular, kinesthetic, tactile, and auditory) while performing or viewing actions (performed by self or by others). We are mostly interesting in manipulating these features in real-time and are able to do this through fast VR capture and rendering technology. Our group focused on two specific areas: space and body perception. Space perception is the ability to experience the world in three dimensions and the distances to and between objects in the world. Body perception is the experience we have of our physical selves (and parts of ourselves, i.e. hands, legs, torso). In our research group we focued especially on the perception of the size, shape and form of our surrounding world and our bodies. Further we focued on the interaction between our perception of the spatial attributes of our bodily selves and the spatial perception of the surrounding visual world. Our methods typically involve measuring human performance in complex everyday tasks, i.e. spatial estimates, action execution and recognition (i.e. reaching, walking, communication).

Our results show that the body (both physical and visual) is important for perceiving distances and sizes in the world [1, 3, 5, 6] and that the technical attributes of the display used contributes to the perception of space in virtual reality [2].


  1. Thaler, A., Geuss, M. N., Mölbert, S. C., Giel, K. E., Streuber, S., Romero, J., Black, M. J., Mohler, B. J. Body size estimation of self and others in females varying in BMI PLoS ONE, 13(2), Febuary 2018 (article)
  2. Mölbert SC, Thaler A, Mohler BJ, Streuber S, Romero J, Black MJ, Zipfel S, Karnath H-O and Giel KE (March-2018) Assessing body image in anorexia nervosa using biometric self-avatars in virtual reality: Attitudinal components rather than visual body size estimation are distorted Psychological Medicine 48(4) 642-653.
  3. Linkenauger SA , Leyrer M , Bülthoff HH and Mohler BJ (July-2013) Welcome to Wonderland: The Influence of the Size and Shape of a Virtual Hand On the Perceived Size and Shape of Virtual Objects PLoS ONE 8(7) 1-16. 
  4. Piryankova IV , de la Rosa S , Kloos U , Bülthoff HH and Mohler BJ (April-2013) Egocentric distance perception in large screen immersive displays Displays 34(2) 153–164.
  5. Linkenauger SA , Mohler BJ and Proffitt DR (October-2011) Body-based perceptual rescaling revealed through the size-weight illusion Perception 40(10) 1251-1253.
  6. Mohler BJ , Creem-Regehr SH , Thompson WB and Bülthoff HH (June-2010) The Effect of Viewing a Self-Avatar on Distance Judgments in an HMD-Based Virtual Environment Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 19(3) 230-242
  7. Leyrer M , Linkenauger SA , Bülthoff HH , Kloos U and Mohler B (August-2011) The influence of eye height and avatars on egocentric distance estimates in immersive virtual environments 8th Symposium on Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization (APGV 2011), ACM Press, New York, NY, USA, 67-74.

Furthur publications can be found on the left hand side. 

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