Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 206, Issue 4, pp 399–407 | Cite as

Eye movements influence estimation of time-to-contact in prediction motion

  • Simon J. BennettEmail author
  • Robin Baures
  • Heiko Hecht
  • Nicolas Benguigui
Research Article


In many situations, it is necessary to predict when a moving object will reach a given target even though the object may be partially or entirely occluded. Typically, one would track the moving object with eye movements, but it remains unclear whether ocular pursuit facilitates accurate estimation of time-to-contact (TTC). The present study examined this issue using a prediction-motion (PM) task in which independent groups estimated TTC in a condition that required fixation on the arrival location as an object approached, or a condition in which participants were instructed to pursue the moving object. The design included 15 TTC ranging from 0.4 to 1.5 s and three object velocities (2.5, 5, 10 deg/s). Both constant error and variable error in TTC estimation increased as a function of actual TTC. However, for the fixation group only, there was a significant effect of object velocity with a relative overestimation of TTC for the slower velocity and underestimation for the faster velocity. Further analysis indicated that the velocity effect exhibited by the fixation group was consistent with participants exhibiting a relatively constant misperception for each level of object velocity. Overall, these findings show that there is an advantage in the PM task to track the moving object with the eyes. We explain the different pattern of TTC estimation error exhibited when fixating and during pursuit with reference to differences in the available retinal and/or extra-retinal input.


Pursuit Fixation Prediction motion TTC Velocity effect 



The work was supported by the Royal Society, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Sachbeihilfe (HE 2122/6-1: Kontaktzeitschätzung im Kontext) and by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (fellowship to R. Baures). We would like to thank Mana Saadati for help with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon J. Bennett
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robin Baures
    • 2
    • 3
  • Heiko Hecht
    • 3
  • Nicolas Benguigui
    • 2
  1. 1.Research Institute for Exercise and Sport SciencesLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Department of Sport SciencesUR CIAMS—Motor Control and Perception Group, Univ Paris-SudParisFrance
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyJohannes Gutenberg-Universität MainzMainzGermany

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