Dennis R. Proffitt


  • BS, Pennsylvania State University
  • MS, University of Virginia
  • PhD, Pennsylvania State University

Primary Appointment

  • Professor, Psychology


Research Interest(s)

Human Perception & Cognition

Research Description

In our research, we are attempting to gain an understanding of how people perceive and think about space. Within this framework, our goals are to: Create new knowledge Build careers Be useful Have fun !

Research Areas & Approaches

Perceiving Spatial Layout Context-Dependent Memory Intuitive Physics Human-Computer Interaction & InfoCockpits Presence & Virtual Reality Brain Imaging (fMRI)

UNLEASH (Undergraduate Research)

Our research involves visual perception of the spatial layout and the environment. What people consistently see is not what is really out there. We conduct this research both in our labs and outside, on various hills and flat stretches on UVA grounds. We investigate how the perception of space can be affected by the internal states of the body.

We are interested in topics such as: 1) How effort/energetics can affect how long distances appear, and how steep hills look, 2) How social and emotional factors influence perception and cognition, 3) How we scale distances and sizes of objects to our body, and 4) How expertise, for example, proficiency in a particular sport, interacts with perception and cognition?

We seek fun, motivated RAs to help with various research projects. RAs attend weekly lab meetings, do data entry and analysis, and run experiments that could require the operation of virtual reality equipment, projection screens, and devices that measure physiological potential. Experiments are performed in rooms within Gilmer Hall as well as in outdoor fields around grounds.

Contact: Website:

Selected Publications

  • An Embodied Approach to Perception: By What Units Are Visual Perceptions Scaled? Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. 2015;8(4): 474-83. PMID: 26173124
  • Linkenauger S, Geuss M, Stefanucci J, Leyrer M, Richardson B, Proffitt D, Bülthoff H, Mohler B. Evidence for hand-size constancy: the dominant hand as a natural perceptual metric. Psychological science. 2014;25(11): 2086-94. PMID: 25253278
  • Linkenauger S, Wong H, Geuss M, Stefanucci J, McCulloch K, Bülthoff H, Mohler B, Proffitt D. The perceptual homunculus: the perception of the relative proportions of the human body. Journal of experimental psychology. General. 2014;144(1): 103-13. PMID: 25494548
  • Zadra J, Proffitt D. Implicit associations have a circadian rhythm. PloS one. 2014;9(11): e110149. PMID: 25365254 | PMCID: PMC4217730
  • Graydon M, Linkenauger S, Teachman B, Proffitt D. Scared stiff: the influence of anxiety on the perception of action capabilities. Cognition & emotion. 2012;26(7): 1301-15. PMID: 22650350 | PMCID: PMC3434322
  • Linkenauger S, Ramenzoni V, Proffitt D. Illusory shrinkage and growth: body-based rescaling affects the perception of size. Psychological science. 2010;21(9): 1318-25. PMID: 20729479 | PMCID: PMC3302719
  • Schnall S, Zadra J, Proffitt D. Direct evidence for the economy of action: glucose and the perception of geographical slant. Perception. 2010;39(4): 464-82. PMID: 20514996 | PMCID: PMC3298360
  • Linkenauger S, Witt J, Bakdash J, Stefanucci J, Proffitt D. Asymmetrical body perception: a possible role for neural body representations. Psychological science. 2009;20(11): 1373-80. PMID: 19788528 | PMCID: PMC2858772
  • Linkenauger S, Witt J, Stefanucci J, Bakdash J, Proffitt D. The effects of handedness and reachability on perceived distance. Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance. 2009;35(6): 1649-60. PMID: 19968426 | PMCID: PMC3291021
  • Witt J, Proffitt D. Action-specific influences on distance perception: a role for motor simulation. Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance. 2008;34(6): 1479-92. PMID: 19045987 | PMCID: NIHMS318216
  • Witt J, Stefanucci J, Riener C, Proffitt D. Seeing beyond the target: environmental context affects distance perception. Perception. 2008;36(12): 1752-68. PMID: 18283926