Embodied Memory Allows Accurate and Stable Perception of Hidden Objects Despite Orientation Change

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Rotating a scene in a frontoparallel plane (rolling) yields a change in orientation of constituent images. When using only information provided by static images to perceive a scene after orientation change, identification performance typically decreases (Rock & Heimer, 1957). However, rolling generates optic flow information that relates the discrete, static images (before and after the change) and forms an embodied memory that aids recognition. The embodied memory hypothesis predicts that upon detecting a continuous spatial transformation of image structure, or in other words, seeing the continuous rolling process and objects undergoing rolling observers should accurately perceive objects during and after motion. Thus, in this case, orientation change should not affect performance. We tested this hypothesis in three experiments and found that (a) using combined optic flow and image structure, participants identified locations of previously perceived but currently occluded targets with great accuracy and stability (Experiment 1); (b) using combined optic flow and image structure information, participants identified hidden targets equally well with or without 30° orientation changes (Experiment 2); and (c) when the rolling was unseen, identification of hidden targets after orientation change became worse (Experiment 3). Furthermore, when rolling was unseen, although target identification was better when participants were told about the orientation change than when they were not told, performance was still worse than when there was no orientation change. Therefore, combined optic flow and image structure information, not mere knowledge about the rolling, enables accurate and stable perception despite orientation change.

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