The Impact of Visually Simulated Self-Motion on Predicting Object Motion

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Jörges, B.; Harris, L. R.


To interact successfully with moving objects in our environment we need to be able to predict their behavior. Predicting the position of a moving object requires an estimate of its velocity. When flow parsing during self-motion is incomplete - that is, when some of the retinal motion created by self-motion is incorrectly attributed to object motion - object velocity estimates become biased. Further, the process of flow parsing should add noise and lead to object velocity judgements being more variable during self-motion. Biases and lowered precision in velocity estimation should then translate to biases and lowered precision in motion extrapolation. We investigated this relationship between self-motion, velocity estimation and motion extrapolation with two tasks performed in a realistic virtual reality (VR) environment: first, participants were shown a ball moving laterally which disappeared after a certain time. They then indicated by button press when they thought the ball would have hit a target rectangle positioned in the environment. While the ball was visible, participants sometimes experienced simultaneous visual lateral self-motion in either the same or in the opposite direction of the ball. The second task was a two-interval forced choice task in which participants judged which of two motions was faster: in one interval they saw the same ball they observed in the first task while in the other they saw a ball cloud whose speed was controlled by a PEST staircase. While observing the single ball, they were again moved visually either in the same or opposite direction as the ball or they remained static. We found the expected biases in estimated time-to-contact, while for the speed estimation task, this was only the case when the ball and observer were moving in opposite directions. Our hypotheses regarding precision were largely unsupported by the data. Overall, we draw several conclusions from this experiment: first, incomplete flow parsing can affect motion prediction. Further, it suggests that time-to-contact estimation and speed judgements are determined by partially different mechanisms. Finally, and perhaps most strikingly, there appear to be certain compensatory mechanisms at play that allow for much higher-than-expected precision when observers are experiencing self-motion - even when self-motion is simulated only visually.

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