Behavioural evidence for distinct mechanisms related to global and biological motion perception

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Abstract

The perception of human motion is a vital ability in our daily lives. Human movement recognition is often studied using point-light stimuli in which dots represent the joints of a moving person. Depending on task and stimulus, the local motion of the single dots, and the global form of the stimulus can be used to discriminate point-light stimuli. Previous studies often measured motion coherence for global motion perception and contrasted it with performance in biological motion perception to assess whether difficulties in biological motion processing are related to more general difficulties with motion processing. However, it is so far unknown as to how performance in global motion tasks relates to the ability to use local motion or global form to discriminate point-light stimuli. Here, we investigated this relationship in more detail. In Experiment 1, we measured participants’ ability to discriminate the facing direction of point-light stimuli that contained primarily local motion, global form, or both. In Experiment 2, we embedded point-light stimuli in noise to assess whether previously found relationships in task performance are related to the ability to detect signal in noise. In both experiments, we also assessed motion coherence thresholds from random-dot kinematograms. We found relationships between performances for the different biological motion stimuli, but performance for global and biological motion perception was unrelated. These results are in accordance with previous neuroimaging studies that highlighted distinct areas for global and biological motion perception in the dorsal pathway, and indicate that results regarding the relationship between global motion perception and biological motion perception need to be interpreted with caution.

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