Differential processing: towards a unified model of direction and speed perception

Max Farrell-Whelan*, Kevin R. Brooks

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    In two experiments, we demonstrate a misperception of the velocity of a random-dot stimulus moving in the presence of a static line oriented obliquely to the direction of dot motion. As shown in previous studies, the perceived direction of the dots is shifted away from the orientation of the static line, with the size of the shift varying as a function of line orientation relative to dot direction (the statically-induced direction illusion, or 'SDI'). In addition, we report a novel effect - that perceived speed also varies as a function of relative line orientation, decreasing systematically as the angle is reduced from 90° to 0°. We propose that these illusions both stem from the differential processing of object-relative and non-object-relative component velocities, with the latter being perceptually underestimated with respect to the former by a constant ratio. Although previous proposals regarding the SDI have not allowed quantitative accounts, we present a unified formal model of perceived velocity (both direction and speed) with the magnitude of this ratio as the only free parameter. The model was successful in accounting for the angular repulsion of motion direction across line orientations, and in predicting the systematic decrease in perceived velocity as the line's angle was reduced. Although fitting for direction and speed produced different best-fit values of the ratio of underestimation of non-object-relative motion compared to object-relative motion (with the ratio for speed being larger than that for direction) this discrepancy may be due to differences in the psychophysical procedures for measuring direction and speed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)10-18
    Number of pages9
    JournalVision Research
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Bibliographical note

    Erratum can be found at Vision Research volume 96, p150, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2013.10.022


    • differential processing
    • statically-induced direction illusion
    • relative motion


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