MPI for Biological Cybernetics

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Natural Environments and Experimental Control

Being interested in how humans navigate in daily life, we would like to use the real world as the place of action. However, the drawback of running experiments in natural environments, like cities for instance is that the experimenter has almost no control over the environment and the way the observers (the subjects in our experiments) interact with it.

So far, the common solution to this problem has been to use very impoverished but well controlled laboratory scenes (like a block world or simple mazes). For a long time now the approach in psychophysical experiments has been a reductionist one: Remove more and more detail from the scene until you are able to describe in full detail what is left, yielding full control of the experimental setting. Recently, however, it has become more and more apparent that it is often extremely difficult if not impossible to generalize results from these types of experiments to our perception and behaviour in the real world.


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