Attending to Biological Motion

Ian Thornton

Cambridge Basic Research,
Nissan Research and Development Inc.,
Cambridge, MA

Johansson’s point-light walker figures remain one of the most powerful and convincing examples of the role that motion can play in the perception of form. How exactly does our visual system take a few isolated points of light and provide us with such compelling impressions of human action? Furthermore, is this biological motion processing always as effortless and automatic as it appears? In this talk I will briefly describe some of the tasks (e.g., simple direction discrimination, discrimination under dual-task conditions, visual search) and display manipulations (e.g. simple and complex masking, apparent motion) my colleagues and I have been using to explore these issues. I will argue that the perception of biological motion can come to rely almost exclusively on either bottom-up or top-down processing strategies, depending on the precise combination of task and display. Interestingly, attention always appears to play some role, even in the simplest types of biological motion display.

The lecture will take place:

In the Lecture Hall, Room 203, 44 Cummington St.
on Monday, January 31, 2000
at 1:00 pm