Shifts in perceived position following adaptation to visual motion

Curr Biol. 1998 Dec 3;8(24):1343-5. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(07)00567-2.


Where do we perceive an object to be when it is moving? Nijhawan [1] has reported that if a stationary test pattern is briefly flashed in spatial alignment with a moving one, the moving element actually appears displaced in the direction in which it is moving. Nijhawan postulates that this may be the result of a mechanism that predicts the future position of the moving element so as to compensate for the fact that the element will have moved position from the time at which the light left it to the time at which the observer becomes aware of it (as a result of the finite time taken for neural transmission). There is an alternative explanation of this effect, however. Changes in the stimulus presentation could affect perceptual latency [2], and therefore the perceived position if in motion (as suggested for the Pulfrich pendulum effect [3] [4]). In other words, if the flashed probe of the Nijhawan demonstration takes longer to reach perceptual awareness than the moving stimulus, the latter will appear to be ahead of the probe. Here, I demonstrate an alternative way of testing this hypothesis. When an illusory movement is induced (via the motion aftereffect) within a stationary pattern, it can be shown that this also produces a change in its perceived spatial position. As the pattern is stationary, one cannot account for this result via the notion of perceptual lags.

MeSH terms

  • Figural Aftereffect
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Optical Illusions
  • Time Factors