Visual motion serves as a cue for high-level percepts. The present study reports novel modulation of animacy perception through synchronous motion. A target dot moving along a random trajectory was presented. The trajectory was generated based on a variant of 1/f noise; hence, the dot could be perceived as animate. Participants were asked to rate the strength of perceived animacy and perceived intention from the target dot. Several task-irrelevant dots surrounding the target were also presented. Results indicated that perceived animacy and intention were drastically weakened when surrounding dots created synchronous motion with the target dot as compared to when surrounding dots did not create synchronous motion. A series of follow-up experiments replicated these results and revealed specific characteristics of this modulation. The present findings suggest synchronous visual motion serves as a strong modulator of animacy perception.
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