Schlottmann A, Ray E D, 2004, "Perceptual animacy in schematic motion events" Perception 33 ECVP Abstract Supplement
Perceptual animacy in schematic motion events
A Schlottmann, E D Ray
Non-rigid motion is often seen as a cue to animacy. As Michotte, we used the perception of non-rigid schematic motion in the absence of animate shape cues. We used computer-animated squares engaged in a caterpillar motion [Michotte 1963 The Perception of Causality (London: Methuen)], involving non-rigid expansion/contraction plus translation across the screen. We factorially varied the rate of forward motion, the rate at which the square expanded/contracted, and whether expansion and translation were in the same direction or perpendicular to each other. Seventy observers rated the extent to which the resulting motion looked animal-like. Ratings for stimuli expanding/contracting and translating in the same direction depended on the specific configuration: ratings were highest when the rate of expansion equalled the rate of translation, confirming Michotte's view. When the direction of expansion/contraction was perpendicular to the direction of translation, however, ratings were lower and independent of the configuration, with only a small effect of the rate of expansion. Thus, we found a separation between two groups of stimuli with identical amounts of non-rigid deformation. Clearly, not all non-rigid motions appear animate. This does not depend on the amount of non-rigidity, but on the motion configuration. It would seem promising to consider the idea of perceptual templates for animacy further.
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