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Perception of acceleration with short presentation times: Can acceleration be used in interception?


Brouwer,  A
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Brouwer, A., Brenner, E., & Smeets, J. (2002). Perception of acceleration with short presentation times: Can acceleration be used in interception? Perception and Psychophysics, 64(7), 1160-1168.

To investigate whether visual judgements of acceleration could be used for intercepting moving targets, we determined how well subjects can detect acceleration when the presentation time is short. In a differential judgement task, two dots were presented successively. One dot accelerated and the other decelerated. Subjects had to indicate which of the two accelerated. In an absolute judgement task, subjects had to adjust the motion of a dot so that it appeared to move at a constant velocity. The results for the two tasks were similar. For most subjects we could determine a detection threshold even when the presentation time was only 300 ms. However, an analysis of these thresholds suggests that subjects did not detect the acceleration itself but that they detected that a target had accelerated on the basis of the change in velocity between the beginning and the end of the presentation. A change of about 25 was needed to detect acceleration with reasonable confidence. Perhaps the simplest use of acceleration for interception is distinguishing between acceleration and deceleration of the optic projection of an approaching ball to determine whether one has to run backward or forward to catch it. We examined the results of a real ball-catching task (Oudejans, Michaels Bakker, 1997) and found that subjects reacted before acceleration could have been detected. We conclude that acceleration is not used in this simple manner to intercept moving targets.