Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 266–274

The effect of movement velocity on form perception: Geometric illusions in dynamic displays

  • Paolo Viviani
  • Natale Stucchi

DOI: 10.3758/BF03208089

Cite this article as:
Viviani, P. & Stucchi, N. Perception & Psychophysics (1989) 46: 266. doi:10.3758/BF03208089


We investigated the effects of movement velocity on the perception of simple geometric trajectories. We show that when an ellipse is traced by the continuous displacement of a spot against an empty background, the subjective aspect ratio (R = vertical axis/horizontal axis) of the figure depends on the law of motion of the spot. If the tangential velocity of the spot is constant, very large and subject-specific biases emerge in the perception of the aspect ratio. If the tangential velocity of the spot is made equal to that of an elliptic motion with aspect ratioR < 1, and resulting from the vectorial composition of two harmonic functions (Lissajous motion), there is a general trend to perceive the ellipse as being flatter than in reality. The effect, however, is not symmetric: when the velocity follows a Lissajous modulation withR > 1, highly significant biases are still present in most subjects, but no common trend emerges from the experimental population. The results are discussed in the context of recent findings on the relationship between form and kinematics in spontaneous human movements.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Viviani
    • 1
  • Natale Stucchi
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenève 4Switzerland