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Philip A. Duke, Simon K. Rushton; How we perceive the trajectory of an approaching object. Journal of Vision 2012;12(3):9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.3.9.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Various equations that describe how observers could recover the trajectory of an approaching object have been put forward. Many are relatively complex formulations that recover the veridical trajectory by scaling retinal cues, such as looming and changing disparity. However, these equations do not seem to describe human perception as observers typically misjudge trajectory angles. Thus, we examine whether a simpler formulation—one that does not predict veridical judgments—may better explain performance. We test the hypothesis that perceived trajectory is based on a speed ratio: the ratio of lateral angular speed to the sum of looming and changing disparity signals. To discriminate between this and alternative proposals, we examined the effect of object size on trajectory perception: The speed ratio hypothesis predicts that perceived trajectory will become less eccentric with increasing object size, while the alternatives predict that perceived trajectory will be independent of object size. Observers performed a trajectory judgment task in which they compared the trajectory direction of two approaching objects, of the same or different size, seen in separate intervals. We estimated perceptually parallel trajectories from their responses. In Experiment 1, objects differed in horizontal and vertical size, and in Experiment 2, they differed only in vertical size. In both experiments, observers' data showed a clear effect of object size and were close to predictions of the speed ratio hypothesis. We conclude that the alternate proposals we tested were not supported and that the speed ratio account is a sufficient account of the data.
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