How the Visual System Detects Changes in the Direction of Moving Targets
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To determine how the visual system represents information about change in target direction, we studied the detection of such change under conditions of varying stimulus certainty. Target direction was either held constant over trials or was allowed to vary randomly. When target direction was constant the observer could be certain about that stimulus characteristic; randomizing the target direction rendered the observer uncertain. We measured response times (RTs) to changes in target direction following initial trajectories of varying time and distance. In different conditions, the observer was uncertain about either the direction of the initial trajectory, or the direction of change or both. With brief initial trajectories in random directions, uncertainty about initial direction elevated RTs by 50 ms or more. When the initial trajectories were at least 500 ms, this directional uncertainty ceased to affect RTs; then, only uncertainty about the direction of change affected RTs. We discuss the implications of these results for (i) schemes by which the visual system might code directional change; (ii) the visual integration time for directional information; and (iii) adaptational processes in motion perception.
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