Visual perception and regulatory conflict: Motivation and physiology influence distance perception

Shana Cole, Emily Balcetis, Sam Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regulatory conflict can emerge when people experience a strong motivation to act on goalsbut a conflicting inclination to withhold action because physical resources available, orphysiological potentials, are low. This study demonstrated that distance perception is biased in ways that theory suggests assists in managing this conflict. Participants estimated the distance to a target location. Individual differences in physiological potential measured via waist-to-hip ratio interacted with manipulated motivational states to predictvisual perception. Among people low in physiological potential and likely to experience regulatory conflict, the environment appeared easier to traverse when motivation was strong compared with weak. Among people high in potential and less likely to experience conflict, perception was not predicted by motivational strength. The role of motivated distanceperception in self-regulation is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-22
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Distance perception
  • Energy
  • Motivation
  • Physiology
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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