Why do My Feet Look Further Away?

19 December 2011
Presented by Hannah Critchlow.

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Why would your feet seem further away when lying down? We put our visual depth perception to the test to find out how being horizontal could change the way you see the world. Plus, we ask if wearing sunglasses increases your risk of getting sunburned?

In this episode

White Cliffs of Dover

00:00 - Why do my feet look farther away when lying down?

When I lay down, my feet appear farther away from me compared to when I am standing up. I wear contacts during the day and glasses during the evening. Could this be a product of my corrective eyewear or a manifestation of my brain due to different visual reference points?

Why do my feet look farther away when lying down?

We posed this question to Dr Rebecca Lawson from the University of Liverpool...

It seems unlikely that any effects of glasses or lenses would differ depending on whether you are standing or lying down. We do seem to overestimate vertical distances particularly if we're on top of a cliff looking down it. We overestimate and think that the height of the cliff is greater than if we were at the base of the same cliff looking upwards and in fact, agoraphobics seem particularly prone to this overestimation. However, this effect goes in the opposite direction. So really, I don't have a good account of why Chris's feet seem further away when he is lying down than standing, but I think that his question really nicely shows of the complexity of human distance estimation. Perhaps surprisingly, we still don't fully understand how we judge the size and distance of objects.

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