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Viewing-distance invariance of movement detection


Since visual movement information is often presented in electronic displays or films it is amazing that there is a paucity of research on the influence of viewing distance on motion detection in cinematograms. We report a relatively high degree of detection constancy with changing viewing distance for coherent motion in random-pixel cinematograms. A constant performance irrespective of viewing-distance is called ‘distance-invariance’ and for motion detection it proves to hold reasonably well for a relatively wide range of viewing distances both for foveal and eccentric vision. The limits of this viewing-distance invariance are explored as a function of screen velocity. Detection performance is quantified by a theshold signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR-) value, S, which is determined as a function of velocity for a range of viewing distances from 53 to 13476 mm for foveal vision and from 60 to 1925 mm at 24° eccentricity on the nasal horizontal meridian of the right eye's retina. The data can be explained, at least qualitatively, by a model in which a spatial-resolution stack has a stack of velocity-tuned motion detectors at every resolution layer. Such a ‘stack-of-stacks’ model is in line with proposals for contrast-detection stack-models, but it suggests that the usual hypothesis that motion perception is based on the activity of two separate systems, the short-range and the long-range system, might be superfluous. This two-systems distinction was largely based on the different performance found for moving random dot patterns and moving form-defined stimuli. A moving random pixel array viewed at very close range (e.g. 6 cm) presents the subject with relatively large almost square ‘blobs’, which are less dissimilar from the phi-stimuli used in classic motion perception studies than random dot stimuli at the usual medium to large viewing distances. It leads to maximum displacement threshold (Dm-) values that are not untypical of the ‘long-range’ system, but by gradually increasing the viewing-distance and thus decreasing the pixel-size a continuous change is found from typical long-range to typical short-range values of Dm. The two-systems distinction for motion detection appears to refer to the stimulus rather than to the visual system: The motion-detection system might be forced into a local or a global ‘mode of operation’ by the choice of stimulus.

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van de Grind, W.A., Koenderink, J.J. & van Doorn, A.J. Viewing-distance invariance of movement detection. Exp Brain Res 91, 135–150 (1992).

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Key words

  • Human motion detection
  • Visual psychophysics
  • Visual distance invariance