Aerial Perspective in Psychology: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Aerial perspective is the tendency of faraway objects to appear hazy or slightly blurred as a result of the atmosphere. Learn more about aerial perspective, depth perception, monocular cues, and the particles in the atmosphere.


Aerial perspective, also known as atmospheric perspective, is a type of monocular cue in which the atmosphere causes distant objects to look hazy or blurry.

Depth Perception

Look at this image. What do you see?

If asked, most people would say that this image is a box. A box has 3 dimensions (length, width and height). The way in which the figure is drawn on the flat screen allows you to perceive all 3 dimensions visually.

What if I were to tell you that this is not a box but rather just two squares connected by a series of parallel lines? (This is actually how I drew the image.) Even with this knowledge, most people would continue to see the image as a box. But how do we visualize 3-dimensional figures? It is because of depth perception, which is the ability to perceive the distance or 3-dimensional characteristics of an object through the use of visual cues.

What is Aerial Perspective?

Aerial perspective is a type of monocular cue. Monocular cues are depth perception cues that can be processed using only one eye. This is opposed to binocular cues, which require the use of both eyes in order to perceive distance and depth.

Look at the picture below.

Aerial perspective cars

You can easily see the sharp details of the closer items, such as the jacket of the person on the motorcycle and the car in front of the person. However, if you look at the mountains in the distance, they do not look as sharp. The mountains in the background look hazy. If you have ever been on a mountain, you'd see brown dirt, green grass and trees, and gray or white rocks. However, from a distance (as in this picture), the mountains look blue. This effect is due to aerial perspective.

Causes of Aerial Perspective

Aerial perspective is a result of the scattering of light by particles in the air. When you look at something in the distance, the dust and vapor particles in the atmosphere cause the light to bend. This causes you to see the blue or purple, which is why the mountains appear blue.

The vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere also cause things at a distance to look hazy. The further away something is from the eye, the hazier it appears.

Aerial Perspective and Distance

Imagine that you were standing in a field near Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France on two separate occasions. The following two images are snapshots of what you saw during your trip.

View 1 of Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel
View 2 of Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

Assuming that the images were taken from your focal point, in which of the pictures were you standing the closest to Mont Saint-Michel?

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