What Does “Biological Motion” Really Mean?

Arieta Chouchourelou, Alissa Golden, and Maggie Shiffrar

in People Watching

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393705
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979271 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Series in Visual Cognition

What Does “Biological Motion” Really Mean?

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For several decades, vision researchers’ use of the term “biological motion” has been used to refer to different things, including the category of all animal movements, the category of all human movements, and, most specifically, the category of human movements depicted in point-light displays. In reviewing data from psychophysical and neurophysiological studies, along with some new perceptual findings, this chapter examines the hypothesis that the visual analysis of human motion does not represent a uniform or bounded perceptual category but rather that analyses of human motion differ in a graded fashion from analyses of nonhuman animal motion. Thus, “biological motion” perception likely defines the perceptual category of human and animal motions organized such that human motion, or, more specifically, the observer’s own motor repertoire, constitutes the prototypical stimulus within the category.

Keywords: biological motion; point-light displays; apparent human motion; human motion; animal motion; object motion; perceptual category; prototype; psychophysics; superior temporal sulcus

Chapter.  11476 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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