Phase integration bias in a motion grouping task
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The perception of the direction of global motion depends on our ability to integrate local motion signals over space and time. We examined motion binding using a task requiring integration of relative phase. Observers completed multiple tasks involving clockwise and counter clockwise motion in a stimulus comprising four sets of linearly arranged dots, two moving horizontally and two moving vertically along sinusoidal trajectories differing in phase. Noise jitter was added along the trajectory perpendicular to each dot's motion. The noise acts as a global grouping cue that improves direction discrimination, but surprisingly, the absence of noise causes consistent below-chance performance (Lorenceau, 1996). We explore this phenomenon and subsequently test the hypothesis that observers perceive reverse motion because their representation of the relative phase of the motion components is systematically biased. We employ a number of different objective and subjective measures of motion integration and measure the phenomenon in both younger and older adults. Taken together, the results presented in the current article demonstrate that noise can promote global grouping in the stimulus and that confident, incorrect responses can be observed in the absence of correct global grouping. Generally, the current result raises the possibility that an integration bias could exist in other motion tasks.
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