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Looming is a term found in the study of perception, as it relates directly to psychology. Looming refers to the rapid expansion in the size of any given image. As the image becomes increasingly large on the perceiver's retina, i.e., when an object looms, there is an automatic physiological response to perceive the object as an approaching object or surface, instead of one that is stationary or receding. Evidence indicates that looming perception is not limited to the visual modality, but can occur due to auditory or even tactile stimuli. 
There is a different type of mirage that is also described as looming, in which distant objects appear much nearer than they actually are, is explained in the same way as the image of the ship, except that the image is not inverted; the density variations may also act as a magnifying glass.
- Gibson, J. J. (2014). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception: Classic Edition. Psychology Press.
- Gray, R. (2011). Looming auditory collision warnings for driving. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 53(1), 63-74.
- Lawson, B. D. (2014). Tactile Displays for Cueing Self-Motion and Looming: What Would Gibson Think?. Advances in Cognitive Engineering and Neuroergonomics, 11, 3.
- Schiff, W., Caviness, J.A., & Gibson, J.J. "Persistent fear responses in rhesus monkeys to the optical stimulus of 'looming'." Science, 1962, 136, 982-983.
- Schiff, W., "Perception of impending collision; a study of visually directed avoidant behavior." Psychological Monographs, 1965, 79 Whole #604.
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