From body form to biological motion: the apparent velocity of human movement biases subjective time

Orgs, Guido; Bestmann, Sven; Schuur, Friederike and Haggard, Patrick. 2011. From body form to biological motion: the apparent velocity of human movement biases subjective time. Psychological Science, 22(6), pp. 712-717. ISSN 0956-7976 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In two experiments, we investigated time perception during apparent biological motion. Pictures of initial, intermediate, and final positions of a single movement were presented, with interstimulus intervals that were constant within trials but varied across trials. Movement paths were manipulated by changing the sequential order of body postures. Increasing the path length produced an increase in perceived movement velocity. To produce an implicit measure of apparent movement dynamics, we also asked participants to judge the duration of a frame surrounding the stimuli. Longer paths with higher apparent movement velocity produced shorter perceived durations. This temporal bias was attenuated for nonbody (Experiment 1) and inverted-body (Experiment 2) control stimuli. As an explanation for these findings, we propose an automatic top-down mechanism of biological-motion perception that binds successive body postures into a continuous perception of movement. We show that this mechanism is associated with velocity-dependent temporal compression. Furthermore, this mechanism operates on-line, bridging the intervals between static stimuli, and is specific to configural processing of body form.

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This study was supported by a grant from the Experimental Psychology Society and a Leverhulme Trust research grant to P. Haggard. G. Orgs was supported by a research fellowship of the German Academic Exchange Service. S. Bestmann was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. P. Haggard was additionally supported by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship.


human body, time perception, apparent motion, biological motion, dance

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June 2011Published

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03 Jun 2016 12:44

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04 Jul 2017 10:24

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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