The New Moon Illusion and the Role of Perspective in the Perception of Straight and Parallel Lines
In the new moon illusion, the sun does not appear to be in a direction perpendicular to the boundary between the lit and dark sides of the moon, and aircraft jet trails appear to follow curved paths across the sky. In both cases, lines that are physically straight and parallel to the horizon appear to be curved. These observations prompted us to investigate the neglected question of how we are able to judge the straight- ness and parallelism of extended lines. To do this, we asked observers to judge the 2-D alignment of three artificial “stars” projected onto the dome of the Saint Petersburg Planetarium that varied in both their elevation and their separation in horizontal azimuth. The results showed that observers make substantial, systematic errors, biasing their judgments away from the veridical great-circle locations and toward equal- elevation settings. These findings further demonstrate that whenever information about the distance of extended lines or isolated points is insufficient, observers tend to assume equidistance, and as a consequence, their straightness judgments are biased toward the angular separation of straight and parallel lines.
Rogers, B., & Naumenko, O. (2015). The new moon illusion and the role of perspective in the perception of straight and parallel lines. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 77(1), 249–257. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-014-0767-3