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Examining Perceptual Mechanisms in the Black Hole Illusion

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Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton Wright-Patterson AFB United States

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The Black Hole Illusion BHI continues to persist despite decades of research into the visual cues that guide landing approaches. Hypotheses attempting to explain the effect tend to focus on individual cues rather than the broader spatial strategies that guide their use. This report details our efforts to resolve apparent inconsistencies in the literature regarding the visual cues that affect nighttime approaches, as well as evaluate the potential for a novel hypothesis the Line Bias Effect to account for BHI wherein pilots may misestimate the location of the horizon based on the edges of the runway under BHI conditions. We present findings from a flight simulator study in which qualified pilots flew nighttime approaches under different combinations of starting distance from the runway, starting altitude, and runway length. We conclude that longer runways lead to lower approaches, and that pilots may misperceive the apparent size andor shape of the runway. Further, we detail the results of a series of computer-based perceptual studies in which participants estimated the intersection points of various lines. These studies indicate that participants had difficulty in judging line angles, lending credence to the notion that pilots may misjudge the horizon based on the runway edge lines at night. We discuss the findings from all of our studies in the context of a broader spatial strategy to examine the factors that may cause pilots to experience BHI effects.

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Technical Report



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Approved For Public Release;

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