The role of central and peripheral vision in perceiving the direction of self-motion

Percept Psychophys. 1992 May;51(5):443-54. doi: 10.3758/bf03211640.


Three experiments were performed to examine the role that central and peripheral vision play in the perception of the direction of translational self-motion, or heading, from optical flow. When the focus of radial outflow was in central vision, heading accuracy was slightly higher with central circular displays (10 degrees-25 degrees diameter) than with peripheral annular displays (40 degrees diameter), indicating that central vision is somewhat more sensitive to this information. Performance dropped rapidly as the eccentricity of the focus of outflow increased, indicating that the periphery does not accurately extract radial flow patterns. Together with recent research on vection and postural adjustments, these results contradict the peripheral dominance hypothesis that peripheral vision is specialized for perception of self-motion. We propose a functional sensitivity hypothesis--that self-motion is perceived on the basis of optical information rather than the retinal locus of stimulation, but that central and peripheral vision are differentially sensitive to the information characteristic of each retinal region.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Computer Graphics
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception
  • Optical Illusions
  • Orientation*
  • Posture
  • Psychophysics
  • Visual Fields*
  • Visual Perception*