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A novel dissociation between representational momentum and representational gravity through response modality

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When people are required to indicate the vanishing location of a moving object, systematic biases forward, in the direction of motion, and downward, in the direction of gravity, are usually found. Both these displacements, called representational momentum and representational gravity, respectively, are thought to reflect anticipatory internal mechanisms aiming to overcome neural delays in the perception of motion. We challenge this view. There may not be such a single mechanism. Although both representational momentum and representational gravity follow a specific time-course, compatible with an anticipation of the object’s dynamics, they do not seem to be commensurable with each other, as they are differentially modulated by relevant variables, such as eye movements and strength of motion signals. We found separate response components, one related to overt motor localization behaviour and one limited to purely perceptual judgement. Representational momentum emerged only for the motor localization task, revealing a motor overshoot. In contrast, representational gravity was mostly evident for spatial perceptual judgements. We interpret the results in support of a partial dissociation in the mechanisms that give rise to representational momentum and representational gravity, with the former but not the latter strongly modulated by the enrolment of the motor system.

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Correspondence to Nuno Alexandre De Sá Teixeira.

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This work was supported by the Italian Space Agency (Grant I/006/06/0) and the Italian University Ministry (PRIN Grant 2015HFWRYY_002). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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The authors declare no conflict of interests.

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All procedures performed in this study were approved by the local ethics committee of the Santa Lucia Foundation, and the experimental protocol was conducted in accordance with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

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Written informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

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De Sá Teixeira, N.A., Kerzel, D., Hecht, H. et al. A novel dissociation between representational momentum and representational gravity through response modality. Psychological Research 83, 1223–1236 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0949-4

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