Perceiving jittering self-motion in a field of lollipops from ages 4 to 95

PLoS One. 2020 Oct 23;15(10):e0241087. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0241087. eCollection 2020.


An internal model of self-motion provides a fundamental basis for action in our daily lives, yet little is known about its development. The ability to control self-motion develops in youth and often deteriorates with advanced age. Self-motion generates relative motion between the viewer and the environment. Thus, the smoothness of the visual motion created will vary as control improves. Here, we study the influence of the smoothness of visually simulated self-motion on an observer's ability to judge how far they have travelled over a wide range of ages. Previous studies were typically highly controlled and concentrated on university students. But are such populations representative of the general public? And are there developmental and sex effects? Here, estimates of distance travelled (visual odometry) during visually induced self-motion were obtained from 466 participants drawn from visitors to a public science museum. Participants were presented with visual motion that simulated forward linear self-motion through a field of lollipops using a head-mounted virtual reality display. They judged the distance of their simulated motion by indicating when they had reached the position of a previously presented target. The simulated visual motion was presented with or without horizontal or vertical sinusoidal jitter. Participants' responses indicated that they felt they travelled further in the presence of vertical jitter. The effectiveness of the display increased with age over all jitter conditions. The estimated time for participants to feel that they had started to move also increased slightly with age. There were no differences between the sexes. These results suggest that age should be taken into account when generating motion in a virtual reality environment. Citizen science studies like this can provide a unique and valuable insight into perceptual processes in a truly representative sample of people.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Virtual Reality
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

Robert S. Allison: RGPIN-2015-06732 Natural Sciences and Engineering Council Laurence R. Harris: 15ILSSRA1-York Canadian Space Agency Laurence R. Harris: RGPIN-2015-46271 Natural Sciences and Engineering Council Michael R. Jenkin: RGPIN-2016-05311 Natural Sciences and Engineering Council We also acknowledge generous funding from the following parts of York University: the Faculty of Health, the Lassonde School of Engineering, the Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the Centre for Vision Research, and VISTA. Michael R. Jenkin, Laurence R. Harris and Robert S. Allison hold NSERC Discovery Grants. Nils-Alexander Bury was supported by the Canadian Space Agency and VISTA (funded by the Canadian First Research Excellence Fund and York University).