Humans can perceive affordances (possibilities for action) for themselves and others, including the maximum overhead height reachable by jumping (reach-with-jump height, RWJ). While observers can accurately perceive maximum RWJ for another person without previously seeing the person jump, estimates improve after viewing the person walk, suggesting there is structure in walking kinematics that is informative about the ability to produce vertical force for jumping. We used principal component analysis (PCA) to identify patterns in human walking kinematics that specify another person's maximum RWJ ability, and to determine whether athletes are more sensitive than non-athletes to these patterns. Kinematic data during treadmill walking were collected and submitted to PCA to obtain loading values for the kinematic time series variables on the first principal component. Kinematic data were also used to create point-light (PL) displays, in which the movement kinematics of PL walkers were manipulated using the obtained PCA loading values to determine how changes in body-segment movements impacted perception of maximum RWJ height. While manipulating individual segmental loadings in the PL displays did not substantially affect RWJ estimates, PL displays created by replacing the PCA loadings of a high-jumper with those of a low-jumper, and vice versa, resulted in corresponding reversals of participants' RWJ estimates, suggesting that the global structure of walking kinematics carries information about another's maximum RWJ height. Athletes exhibited greater sensitivity than controls to the kinematic manipulations, indicating that they are better attuned to useful kinematic information as a result of their sport experience.
- principal component analysis