Retinal flow is sufficient for steering during observer rotation

Psychol Sci. 2002 Sep;13(5):485-91. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00486.


How do people control locomotion while their eyes are simultaneously rotating? A previous study found that during simulated rotation, they can perceive a straight path of self-motion from the retinal flow pattern, despite conflicting extraretinal information, on the basis of dense motion parallax and reference objects. Here we report that the same information is sufficient for active control ofjoystick steering. Participants steered toward a target in displays that simulated a pursuit eye movement. Steering was highly inaccurate with a textured ground plane (motion parallax alone), but quite accurate when an array of posts was added (motion parallax plus reference objects). This result is consistent with the theory that instantaneous heading is determined from motion parallax, and the path of self-motion is determined by updating heading relative to environmental objects. Retinal flow is thus sufficient for both perceiving self-motion and controlling self-motion with a joystick; extraretinal and positional information can also contribute, but are not necessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Depth Perception
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis / physiology*
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Rotation
  • Vision Disparity / physiology*