Motion Perception And Action

Most research on visual perception used to involve a motionless observer viewing one or more static objects. Such research lacked ecological validity or relevance to our everyday experiences. We reach for objects, and we walk, run, or drive through the environment. At other times, we are stationary, but other living creatures or objects in the environment are in movement relative to us. The brain systems involved in motion perception are discussed in Chapter 2.

Gibson's theorising increased interest in issues such as visually guided action and the perception of movement. In the words of Greeno (1994, p. 341), Gibson believed that, "perception is a system that picks up information that supports coordination of the agent's actions with the systems that the environment provides."

We will start with the role of eye movements in visual perception. We are generally very efficient at deciding whether changes in the retinal image reflect movements made by ourselves or objects in the environment, or whether they simply reflect eye movements. After that, we consider the visual processes involved in facilitating human movement or action. Finally, we consider how we perceive object motion. Related issues sometimes arise in these last two areas. For example, the processes involved in perceiving how long it will be before we collide with an object in front of us may be rather similar whether we are moving at 30 mph (48 kilometres an hour) towards it, or it is moving at the same speed towards us.

The central issue is whether Gibson (1979) was correct in assuming that we interact directly with the environment, making use of invariant information. Directly available information (e.g., about optic flow patterns) is used in some of our interactions with the environment, but it remains controversial whether this is generally the case.

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