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Visual perception of biological motion and a model for its analysis


This paper reports the first phase of a research program on visual perception of motion patterns characteristic of living organisms in locomotion. Such motion patterns in animals and men are termed here as biological motion. They are characterized by a far higher degree of complexity than the patterns of simple mechanical motions usually studied in our laboratories. In everyday perceptions, the visual information from biological motion and from the corresponding figurative contour patterns (the shape of the body) are intermingled. A method for studying information from the motion pattern per se without interference with the form aspect was devised. In short, the motion of the living body was represented by a few bright spots describing the motions of the main joints. It is found that 10–12 such elements in adequate motion combinations in proximal stimulus evoke a compelling impression of human walking, running, dancing, etc. The kinetic-geometric model for visual vector analysis originally developed in the study of perception of motion combinations of the mechanical type was applied to these biological motion patterns. The validity of this model in the present context was experimentally tested and the results turned out to be highly positive.


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This research was supported by a grant from the Swedish Council for Social Science Research. Experimental assistance was provided by Ragnar Johansson.

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Johansson, G. Visual perception of biological motion and a model for its analysis. Perception & Psychophysics 14, 201–211 (1973).

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  • Motion Pattern
  • Motion Perception
  • Vector Analysis
  • Biological Motion
  • Human Walking