Accurately perceiving the activities of other people is a crucially important social skill of obvious survival value. Human vision is equipped with highly sensitive mechanisms for recognizing activities performed by others [Johansson, G. (1973). Visual perception of biological motion and a model for its analysis. Perception and Psychophysics, 14, 201; Johansson, G. (1976). Spatio-temporal differentiation and integration in visual motion perception: An experimental and theoretical analysis of calculus-like functions in visual data processing. Psychological Research, 38, 379]. One putative functional role of biological motion perception is to register the presence of biological events anywhere within the visual field, not just within central vision. To assess the salience of biological motion throughout the visual field, we compared the detectability performances of biological motion animations imaged in central vision and in peripheral vision. To compensate for the poorer spatial resolution within the periphery, we spatially magnified the motion tokens defining biological motion. Normal and scrambled biological motion sequences were embedded in motion noise and presented in two successively viewed intervals on each trial (2AFC). Subjects indicated which of the two intervals contained normal biological motion. A staircase procedure varied the number of noise dots to produce a criterion level of discrimination performance. For both foveal and peripheral viewing, performance increased but saturated with stimulus size. Foveal and peripheral performance could not be equated by any magnitude of size scaling. Moreover, the inversion effect - superiority of upright over inverted biological motion [Sumi, S. (1984). Upside-down presentation of the Johansson moving light-spot pattern. Perception, 13, 283] - was found only when animations were viewed within the central visual field. Evidently the neural resource responsible for biological motion perception are embodied within neural mechanisms focused on central vision.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems