It has been proposed that perceived angular direction relative to straight-ahead is exaggerated in perception, and that this exaggeration is greater in elevation (or declination) than in azimuth. Prior research has suggested that exaggerations in elevation may be tied to the presence of a visual ground plane, but there have been mixed results across studies using different methods of dissociation. In the present study, virtual environments were used to dissociate visual from gravitational upright while human participants (N = 128) made explicit angular direction judgments relative to straight ahead. Across these experimental manipulations, observers were positioned either upright (Experiments 1A and 1B) or sideways (Experiment 2), so as to additionally dissociate bodily orientation from gravitational orientation. In conditions in which a virtual environment was perceived as containing a level ground plane, large-scale exaggerations consistent with the visually-specified orientation of the ground plane were observed. In the absence of the perception of a level ground plane, angular exaggerations were relatively small. The ground plane serves as an important reference frame for angular expansion in the perceived visual direction.
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