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Anticipating action in complex scenes

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In four experiments we explored the accuracy of memory for human action using displays with continuous motion. In Experiment 1, a desktop virtual environment was used to visually simulate ego-motion in depth, as would be experienced by a passenger in a car. Using a task very similar to that employed in typical studies of representational momentum we probed the accuracy of memory for an instantaneous point in space/time, finding a consistent bias for future locations. In Experiment 2, we used the same virtual environment to introduce a new "interruption" paradigm in which the sensitivity to displacements during a continuous event could be assessed. Thresholds for detecting displacements in ego-position in the direction of motion were significantly higher than those opposite the direction of motion. In Experiments 3 and 4 we extended previous work that has shown anticipation effects for frozen action photographs or isolated human figures by presenting observers with short video sequences of complex crowd scenes. In both experiments, memory for the stopping position of the video was shifted forward, consistent with representational momentum. Interestingly, when the video sequences were played in reverse, the magnitude of this forward bias was larger. Taken together, the results of all four experiments suggest that even when presented with complex, continuous motion, the visual system may sometimes try to anticipate the outcome of our own and others' actions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany 2: School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, UK

Publication date: 2004-02-01

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