Sources of bias in the perception of heading in the presence of moving objects: Object-based and border-based discrepancies

J Vis. 2016;16(1):9. doi: 10.1167/16.1.9.


The focus of expansion (FoE) specifies the heading direction of an observer during self-motion, and experiments show that humans can accurately perceive their heading from optic flow. However, when the environment contains an independently moving object, heading judgments may be biased. When objects approach the observer in depth, the heading bias may be due to discrepant optic flow within the contours of the object that radiates from a secondary FoE (object-based discrepancy) or by motion contrast at the borders of the object (border-based discrepancy). In Experiments 1 and 2, we manipulated the object's path angle and distance from the observer to test whether the heading bias induced by moving objects is entirely due to object-based discrepancies. The results showed consistent bias even at large path angles and when the object moved far in depth, which is difficult to reconcile with the influence of discrepant optic flow within the object. In Experiment 3, we found strong evidence that the misperception of heading can also result from a specific border-based discrepancy ("pseudo FoE") that emerges from the relative motion between the object and background at the trailing edge of the object. Taken together, the results from the present study support the idea that when moving objects are present, heading perception is biased in some conditions by discrepant optic flow within the contours of the object and in other conditions by motion contrast at the border (the pseudo FoE). Center-weighted spatial pooling mechanisms in MSTd may account for both effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bias
  • Female
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Optic Flow / physiology
  • Orientation*
  • Young Adult