Action recognition in the visual periphery

J Vis. 2016;16(3):33. doi: 10.1167/16.3.33.


Recognizing whether the gestures of somebody mean a greeting or a threat is crucial for social interactions. In real life, action recognition occurs over the entire visual field. In contrast, much of the previous research on action recognition has primarily focused on central vision. Here our goal is to examine what can be perceived about an action outside of foveal vision. Specifically, we probed the valence as well as first level and second level recognition of social actions (handshake, hugging, waving, punching, slapping, and kicking) at 0° (fovea/fixation), 15°, 30°, 45°, and 60° of eccentricity with dynamic (Experiment 1) and dynamic and static (Experiment 2) actions. To assess peripheral vision under conditions of good ecological validity, these actions were carried out by a life-size human stick figure on a large screen. In both experiments, recognition performance was surprisingly high (more than 66% correct) up to 30° of eccentricity for all recognition tasks and followed a nonlinear decline with increasing eccentricities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Visual Fields / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult