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Lore Thaler, James T. Todd, Miriam Spering, Karl R. Gegenfurtner; Illusory bending of a rigidly moving line segment: Effects of image motion and smooth pursuit eye movements. Journal of Vision 2007;7(6):9. doi: 10.1167/7.6.9.
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Four experiments in which observers judged the apparent “rubberiness” of a line segment undergoing different types of rigid motion are reported. The results reveal that observers perceive illusory bending when the motion involves certain combinations of translational and rotational components and that the illusion is maximized when these components are presented at a frequency of approximately 3 Hz with a relative phase angle of approximately 120°. Smooth pursuit eye movements can amplify or attenuate the illusion, which is consistent with other results reported in the literature that show effects of eye movements on perceived image motion. The illusion is unaffected by background motion that is in counterphase with the motion of the line segment but is significantly attenuated by background motion that is in-phase. This is consistent with the idea that human observers integrate motion signals within a local frame of reference, and it provides strong evidence that visual persistency cannot be the sole cause of the illusion as was suggested by J. R. Pomerantz (1983). An analysis of the motion patterns suggests that the illusory bending motion may be due to an inability of observers to accurately track the motions of features whose image displacements undergo rapid simultaneous changes in both space and time. A measure of these changes is presented, which is highly correlated with observers' numerical ratings of rubberiness.
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