Perceiving heading in the presence of moving objects

Perception. 1995;24(3):315-31. doi: 10.1068/p240315.


In most models of heading from optic flow a rigid environment is assumed, yet humans often navigate in the presence of independently moving objects. Simple spatial pooling of the flow field would yield systematic heading errors. Alternatively, moving objects could be segmented on the basis of relative motion, dynamic occlusion, or inconsistency with the global flow, and heading determined from the background flow. Displays simulated observer translation toward a frontal random-dot plane, with a 10 deg square moving independently in depth. The path of motion of the object was varied to create a secondary focus of expansion (FOE') 6 deg to the right or left of the actual heading point (FOE), which could bias the perceived heading. There was no effect when the FOE was visible, but when the object moved in front of it, perceived heading was biased toward the FOE' by approximately 1.9 degrees with a transparent object, and approximately 3.4 degrees with an opaque object. The results indicate that scene segmentation does not occur prior to heading estimation, which is consistent with spatial pooling weighted near the FOE. A simple template model based on large-field, center-weighted expansion units accounts for the data. This may actually represent an adaptive solution for navigation with respect to obstacles on the path ahead.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Perceptual Distortion
  • Visual Fields