Shedding Some Light on Catching in the Dark: Perceptual Mechanisms for Catching Fly Balls

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To catch a lofted ball, a catcher must pick up information that guides locomotion to where the ball will land. The acceleration of tangent of the elevation angle of the ball (AT) has received empirical support as a possible source of this information. Little, however, has been said about how the information is detected. Do catchers fixate on a stationary point, or do they track the ball with their gaze? Experiment 1 revealed that catchers use eye and head movements to track the ball. This means that if AT is picked up retinally, it must be done by means of background motion. Alternatively, AT could be picked up by extraretinal mechanisms, such as the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. In Experiment 2, catchers reliably ran to intercept luminous fly balls in the dark, that is, in absence of a visual background, under both binocular and monocular viewing conditions. This indicates that the optical information is not detected by a retinal mechanism alone.

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