Field-like interactions between motion-based reference frames

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2015 Aug;77(6):2082-97. doi: 10.3758/s13414-015-0890-9.


A reference frame is required to specify how motion is perceived. For example, the motion of part of an object is usually perceived relative to the motion of the object itself. Johansson (Psychological Research, 38, 379-393, 1976) proposed that the perceptual system carries out a vector decomposition, which rewsults in common and relative motion percepts. Because vector decomposition is an ill-posed problem, several studies have introduced constraints by means of which the number of solutions can be substantially reduced. Here, we have adopted an alternative approach and studied how, rather than why, a subset of solutions is selected by the visual system. We propose that each retinotopic motion vector creates a reference-frame field in the retinotopic space, and that the fields created by different motion vectors interact in order to determine a motion vector that will serve as the reference frame at a given point and time in space. To test this theory, we performed a set of psychophysical experiments. The field-like influence of motion-based reference frames was manifested by increased nonspatiotopic percepts of the backward motion of a target square with decreasing distance from a drifting grating. We then sought to determine whether these field-like effects of motion-based reference frames can also be extended to stationary landmarks. The results suggest that reference-field interactions occur only between motion-generated fields. Finally, we investigated whether and how different reference fields interact with each other, and found that different reference-field interactions are nonlinear and depend on how the motion vectors are grouped. These findings are discussed from the perspective of the reference-frame metric field (RFMF) theory, according to which perceptual grouping operations play a central and essential role in determining the prevailing reference frames.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Motion Perception*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychophysics