Parallel and serial processes in motion detection

Science  24 Jul 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4813, pp. 400-402
DOI: 10.1126/science.3603025


Apparent motion was used to explore humans' ability to perceive the direction of motion in the visual field. A marked qualitative difference in this ability was found between short- and long-range motion. For short-range motion, the detection of the direction of motion is characterized by parallel operation over a wide visual field (that is, detection performance is independent of the number of objects in an array). When the positional displacement is large relative to an object's size, the direction of motion is detected in a serial manner. The process of detection is limited in this case by the ability to detect other events, such as appearance and disappearance of an object, and the ability to compute their spatio-temporal relations. The results are consistent with a previously suggested division of the motion detection system into short- and long-range processes. The direction of short-range motion can be perceived in parallel (preattentively), whereas long-range motion is attentive and requires more complicated computations. It seems that the detection of long-range motion is a conjunction task, combining the detection of disappearance and appearance.